The Brooklyn Acupuncture Project has been providing high quality low cost health care for the people of New York City since 2008. Based on the pioneer model “Working Class Acupuncture,” a community style acupuncture clinic started in the late ’90’s in Portland Oregon, this kind of service-oriented acupuncture clinic is focused on making the traditional medicines of acupuncture, massage, herbs, and nutrition available to the entire socio economic range. Through the sliding scale fee structure, the project's services are accessible to people of all walks of life; and what clients choose to pay within the sliding scale is on an honor system meaning there is no proof of income required. When we started, there was only one other community acupuncture practice developing in NYC and now there are over five thriving clinics bringing these time tested medicines to the forefront of healthcare.
Over the past ten years I have witnessed the efficacy of the sliding scale and have seen how, in many ways, the sliding scale itself is a healing influence. For people seeking sustainable ways to stay healthy, for the health care community as a whole, and for business owners like me; the sliding scale offers a refreshing reframe to the dominant paradigm of business as usual and how we look at health.
There is often a pause of disbelief when we tell people how little we charge and how they don’t need to bring in any pay stubs etc… It is almost like their nervous systems have to readjust to the reality that they indeed get THE SAME treatment no matter what they pay. In a society where most everything is based on how much money your have or don’t have, this is a place where that does not play in at all to what you receive. To have the sincere desire to heal is enough. It is our hope that the more people we treat, the more people will be healthy, happy, and making good decisions for themselves, their families and communities, and the planet.
As with all true medicine, thorough healing takes time and a dedicated effort. While people usually start feeling much better after two or three treatments, it is important to come in often enough to change the unhealthy pattern. We usually say two months treatment once to twice a week but this varies from case to case. Whether it is body pain, anxiety, addiction, digestive issues, sleep issues etc…, the symptom is the tip of an iceberg that takes deliberate and intelligent dismantling as new patterns are built. Thus, it’s important to be able to come in enough to get better and STAY better. The sliding scale makes this possible without taking your entire paycheck. Treatment is enhanced by herbal medicine, nutritional changes, exercise, and free time so having resources to put towards those aspects of life is part of what we value in offering the low cost acupuncture.
The sliding scale offers a way of releasing some of the frustration and feelings of lack that can be so prevalent in the economic structure of the States, especially in healthcare. It also has a way of strengthening our ability to be honest as it is essential that people indeed pay what they truly can afford for the boat to float. We call the clinic a “Project” because we are all in it together, each of us pulling our weight for the whole. One person paying more will allow another person who can not pay more the chance to come in for treatment. This is also why we ask that people pay the missed appointment fee.
The healing process can be scary sometimes and feel very lonely. Receiving treatment at a community acupuncture clinic, you see others in the same boat and even though you don’t know what brings them in and what their story is, you can relate to them as other human beings on the path to wellness. Choosing to get care at a community clinic and paying what you can afford is a community service unto itself and cultivates compassion in action.
It has been proven that when another community acupuncture clinic opens up, already existing community clinics in the area get busier! The word gets out about how wonderful they are and people look for options closer to their own home. This is another wonderful reframe for the capitalistic structure that fears competition so much. I am so happy to support the other low cost clinics, and often find myself referring out to them when they are closer to a client’s home. This leads to less travel/fuel consumption and more spaciousness in the client’s life.
Because of the accessibility to treatment made possible by the sliding scale, BAP has been able to offer jobs to other acupuncturists. This has been one of my favorite parts of starting the clinic. Practitioners may see more people in one year than many in private practice would see in five years and the range of experience they get from working at clinics like BAP is invaluable to building confidence and proficiency with the medicine. The more practitioners can stay in practice and continue to offer their gifts, the more the profession in general will grow and the more people can benefit from these approaches. We have medical doctors referring to us that we have never met before because of the continued success they see in their patients who get acupuncture. Word of mouth has been our only advertisement since the beginning! Community Acupuncture with it’s sliding scale model has been one of the main reasons acupuncture has grown so much nationally in popularity in the past ten years.
Before I started BAP, giving people my card would always be a bittersweet moment. I knew the medicine could help them, but so often the private treatment would be out of their budget and offering them a “deal” could be offensive. After starting BAP, I could give my card with no hesitation. That made all the difference for me to feel free and proud to practice. BAP had a steady flow of patients from the very beginning and has only grown in the heart of the community since. Being able to be of service in this way has been life changing for me. I have learned so much through witnessing grateful people come and get better and go on to have great lives. It is my hope that through the community effort of patients, practitioners, and the collaboration of supportive doctors and other healing practitioners; that BAP will continue to grow as a hub of healthcare and wellness education for many more years to come.