When Laquida Landford was diagnosed last July with multiple sclerosis, a disease that attacks the central nervous system, she wasn't sure what kind of treatment she'd seek. She wasn't sure with the disease and skeptical of western medicine.
One day, while volunteering at the Tubman-Chavez Multicultural Center in Southeast San Diego, she found out about Integrative Health Nights put on by the alternative Healing Network, a nonprofit that brings alternative-healing methods to underserved areas at no cost. Landford's been receiving free treatment—acupuncture, chiropractic, massage and energy healing—ever since.
“The neurologists have not given me as much information as the acupuncturists and chiropractors have,” Landford says. “I really prefer to get treatment than to have to deal with the medication that I have to take.”
While she does take medication prescribed to her by her regular doctors to keep certain symptoms in check, Landford says that regularly receiving alternative treatments eases some symptoms and helps her with everyday functions.
“These people offer their service,” Landford says, “and every week they will just sit and talk to you to find out what's going on and how they can fix it.”
Founded by former Pacific College of Oriental Medicine student Ryan Altman, who's now a licensed acupuncturist, the alternative Healing Network (AHN), has held Integrative Health Nights since 2007. Since then, they've grown from one location a month to revolving locations in City Heights and Southeast San Diego each Thursday.
AHN (althealnet.org) also runs the Adams Avenue Integrative Health Clinic in Normal Heights. Patients pay on a sliding scale and don't have to show a pay stub or tax forms.
They simply declare how much they can afford to pay. The clinic offers acupuncture, chiropractic, massage, naturopathy, energy healing, nutrition therapy and detoxifying foot-bath treatments. Altman has worked it out so that the two operations go hand-in-hand.
Proceeds from the Normal Heights clinic help fund the free clinics, “so we're pretty much self-sustained,” Altman says. “For the basics of it, we have it covered ourselves.”
A Jan. 6 clinic held in classrooms at O'Farrell Community School was crowded with patients waiting inside and outside. Many patients greeted each other and caught up like old friends. Aside from alternative-health practitioners, licensed vocational nursing students from Concorde Career College gave blood-pressure and blood-sugar screenings. The acupuncturists were Pacific students who, under the supervision of an instructor, were logging practice hours. Nearly everyone giving treatments was a volunteer.
Patient Susan Perez was laid off from her job two years ago.
A friend told her about the free clinics, thinking they'd help with stress. Perez now follows the clinics around and says she's “addicted” to acupuncture and the balance it brings to her life. Besides feeling better both mentally and physically, she says she's made a lot of friends at the clinics.
Stress is often what brings patients to the clinics. “Almost everything is stress-related, or diet-related, for that matter,” Altman says. “Especially with the economy being the way it has been, there's a lot more people out of work that never thought they would be, and for those people, it's really good that we have the free clinics.”