Empower yourself to achieve good health by subscribing to CHAC's e-newsletter.
Dear Friends of Community Health Acupuncture Center,
I have some bad news. For economic and personal reasons, I have decided to close CHAC. Our last day will be Tuesday, May 12, 2015. Because of this, we are not taking any new patients. Also, anyone with prepaid treatments is encouraged to come in and use up their treatments. We are also happy to reimburse you for any unredeemed treatments should you be unable to schedule them before we close. Please read to the end to find out how to stay in touch, and for referrals to other acupuncture clinics.
One of our most difficult challenges has been finding new office space. At our current location, at 801 Livernois St., the roof and upstairs plumbing has leaked chronically over the 7 years we’ve been here, so I began to look for alternatives. Many of you know that I bought a building on Hilton St. Unfortunately, this turned out to be a fatal mistake. The cost of renovating the building to bring it up to building code required by the city to operate a clinic is more than I can afford, and I do not wish to go into debt for a second time to renovate another clinic space, and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t qualify to borrow the sum that I need. Even if I could, the monthly payments would mean I could pay myself virtually nothing, possibly pouring more of my own savings into the business. The cost of the required electrical work alone was estimated at more than $8,000. Much more work was needed, including a new roof (about $30,000) and various other upgrades and build-outs to meet ADA (American’s with Disabilities Act) requirements (about another $40,000). I do not begrudge this requirement at all. It is perfectly appropriate to require a clinic to accommodate people with disabilities. It’s just that it is beyond my means to do it. Also, owning and managing a property, even if it is just one building, adds another “job” for me to do that distracts from my work as a practitioner as well as significantly compromising my personal life. The process of renovating has also been painfully slow, and time waiting for renovation to get underway is also expensive because of paying for rent at one clinic and the mortgage, taxes and insurance on the building. Looking for a contractor to do the work has dragged out for several months because there are relatively few contractors available (after so many people left the state after the “recession”) to fill the demand with the latest blip up in the economy.
Another reason for closing has to do with how we operate and the nature of the work itself. The whole point of community style acupuncture is to make treatments available to people at affordable rates, and I believe we (and other community style clinics in our area) succeeded at that. The work is hard, though, both mentally and physically, and it has taken its toll on my body. I am one of those unlucky people who are susceptible to repetitive strain injuries—part of the reason I sought out acupuncture for the first time many years ago before becoming a practitioner. Because of chronic pain, I find it difficult to sit for long periods on the rolling stool I use and to bend over to attend to people when I’m not sitting, so, unfortunately, the ergonomics of community acupuncture in recliners don’t work for me anymore.
The economics of the clinic are, I believe, also unsustainable, at least at our current rates of $15 - $35 per treatment, sliding scale. To make a living at doing acupuncture this way requires seeing lots and lots of people very quickly. To continue to keep our prices affordable and to keep from raising our prices, we need to continue to find ways of squeezing in more and more patient treatments into an hour in anticipation of inflation and ever increasing costs of doing business, and because wages are by and large not increasing for any but the wealthiest Americans, we don’t believe than any but the smallest price increases will work for most of our patients. Unfortunately, that means we have to find ways to spend less and less time with you when you come in to get treated, and that is also not acceptable to me. I believe most people do not want to be rushed through our clinic as quickly as possible, even if the rates are very low. This aspect of the work is mentally draining and very stressful. Some practitioners are able to do it, but I dislike the constant pressure to rush through treatments as well as the feelings of guilt about not being able to listen to people tell me their stories, which are often complicated and take time to hear, and about not being able to take my time to focus on the person in front of me without having to worry that I am falling behind and upsetting other people who will have to wait when I fall behind schedule. This problem of time management is an issue for any practitioner, but it is exponentially compounded for a community acupuncturist, particularly one who is the sole practitioner in a clinic.
Having multiple practitioners work for the clinic seems like a logical solution to many of these problems, but finding other acupuncturists to share the load at CHAC has proved very difficult. This is partly because acupuncture school is so expensive, practitioners expect to earn hourly rates that a low-cost clinic can’t really afford to pay and partly because a majority of available practitioners in the area (in my experience) are philosophically opposed to working in this setting because they feel the rates we charge and the way we practice (quickly) cheapens their profession.
The staffing problem is compounded because of Michigan laws governing acupuncture. Michigan does not license acupuncturists, which makes it a significant gamble to practice here, and the laws are inconsistent, self-contradicting, and just plain absurd, making it extremely difficult to have an independent practice here legally. On top of that, supervising other practitioners has its own challenges; acupuncturists are by nature very independent-minded and resistant to being told how to practice, and they are quite often unreceptive to things like quotas and other realities of running a practice like a business. For my part, I am not the greatest boss, and I dislike being a boss for reasons too numerous to list here. I often dreamt of having some type of worker-owned cooperative, but my lack of leadership skill, time and energy to “sell it” and educate people about it are the reasons that it remains just a dream.
I am very sorry to have to bring you this bad news, but I hope, after reading this, that most people understand why we’re closing. I sincerely wanted this clinic to be around for many, many years for my community, but I find that keeping it going by myself to be too overwhelming.
Many of you may be wondering whether I will continue to practice acupuncture, and I do plan to seek other arrangements, perhaps sharing space with some other practitioner. If you are interested in knowing where I will be practicing after CHAC closes, please make sure we have your email address, and I will let you know where I wind up. If you gave us your email address to send you appointment reminders, you do not need to sign up again to get updates. You can also check the website and Facebook page for updates.
Thank you to all of you who have supported us over the years. I sincerely appreciate your efforts to help us by telling your friends and family about us, and I am especially grateful to all of you who have volunteered your time and talents at the clinic to help us out; I will never forget your generosity.
Darlene Berger, MSAc
PS: Following is a list of other practitioners we either know personally, or whom we know are practicing community style acupuncture in the area:
Linda Harris, Michigan Community Acupuncture, 36616 Plymouth Rd., Livonia, 734.421.7100, http://www.michigancommunityacupuncture.com/
Emily Liburdi, Michigan TCM Wellness Center, 81 Macomb Pl, Mt Clemens, 586.468.6463, http://michiganacupuncturecenter.com
Nicole McCarty, Common Source Acupuncture 220 N. 5th Ave, 2nd floor, Ann Arbor, 734.926.9410, www.commonsourcehealing.com
Ypsilanti Community Acupuncture, 2898 Washtenaw Ave, Ypsilanti, 734-731-9188, http://www.ypsilanticommunityacupuncture.com/