Community acupuncture makes a point in Janesville
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For more information on Community Acupuncture & Wellness Center, go online to community-acuwellness.com or call Steven Rosenthal at (608) 322-4408.
JANESVILLE Sarah Boyd's sudden back pain made it difficult to walk.
Pain medication prescribed after a visit to urgent care didn't work.
The Janesville woman said she received immediate relief on her first visit.
But Boyd is on Badger Care, which doesn't cover acupuncture, and the cost of acupuncture can start at $55 a session.
Boyd said she was lucky to discover an inexpensive option: community acupuncture.
"I'm a single mom on a tight income," Boyd said. "Trying to fit something in that's preventative or voluntary or complementary medicine, it's hard to squeeze that into my budget. I don't think I would have been able to achieve this level of pain-free lifestyle without that."
Boyd soon cut back from several visits a week to one a week, all without painkillers.
"Having the option to pay whatever I can afford is so wonderful," she said.
Community Acupuncture & Wellness Center owner Steven Rosenthal said he can provide more affordable acupuncture because he sees more people.
Rosenthal is a licensed acupuncturist with a four-year degree from the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in San Diego.
Clients pay on a sliding scale, ranging from $15 to $35, depending upon what the client believes he or she can afford. Insurance often doesn't cover acupuncture or only pays for a handful of sessions.
Rosenthal's initial consultations are free with a $10 charge for paperwork.
Rosenthal, 54, opened his community acupuncture practice in Janesville in July.
His first practice in San Diego was a "spa-type model." He operated in a 2,000-square-foot building he gutted and renovated in a "yuppie, downtown" area.
But nobody could afford it, he said.
"I was absolutely miserable in there," Rosenthal said. "I never had anybody in that place."
Now, after becoming a convert to community acupuncture, his two rooms at Olde Towne Mall, 20 Main St., are filled with up to eight patients at a time.
Community acupuncture was created by a woman in Portland, Ore., when an acupuncturist from a working-class background realized her family and friends could not afford her treatment.
"She was like all of us, thinking there would be endless people lined up to pay $100 for acupuncture treatment," Rosenthal said.
She realized treating four to five patients at a time and charging $15 to $20 was the same as treating one person, Rosenthal said.
That's good for his business, and he's helping more people, he said.
Community acupuncture clinics are popping up all over the country. Rosenthal said he moved here partly because California has 15,000 acupuncturists, about half of the nation's practitioners. Wisconsin has only a few hundred, he said.
Acupuncture can be effective in treating chronic pain, stress, respiratory problems, headaches and digestion—all at the same time, he said, but most people don't have the money to get an adequate course of treatment, he said.
In China, people visit acupuncturists regularly as a maintenance procedure, Rosenthal said. He trained with an acupuncturist there who treated patients in triple bunk beds.
"You see the greatest acupuncturists in the world treating hundreds each week," he said.
In Rosenthal's office, people relax on recliners during treatment. The light is low, and the music is soothing. Many patients fall asleep during treatment.
The communal setting doesn't seem to bother the clients. In fact, camaraderie grows, they said.
"It's very economical for me," said Carmella Gardner, Janesville.
She said she probably couldn't afford the treatments outside a communal setting.
Paula Kokesh, Janesville, said the treatments are affordable enough for preventative work, as well.
"I do feel better each time," she said.
Bob Baldwin sees Rosenthal for his spinal stenosis three times a week. He had trouble walking before and now rarely uses a wheelchair, he said.
He had tried acupuncture before, but insurance covered most of a session only 12 times a year.
Rosenthal said his business "runs on a shoestring, but it's not cut-rate care."
People are surprised when they call Rosenthal and don't get a secretary.
His wife will help when she joins him from California, he said.
Rosenthal doesn't bill, and payments are made with check or cash.
"I saw a great opportunity being successful, here, doing what I love to do—a community clinic," Rosenthal said. "Get as many people fixed up as possible."