Another NCCAOM Post. Sorry.

I know, three posts in two weeks is too many posts. I need a break as much as you do.

My post last week was an open letter to the NCCAOM, so I think it’s fair to share the response from the Chair of the NCCAOM Board of Commissioners.

Dear Elaine,

It was nice to meet you at the CCAOM conference.  Thank you for your concern and dedication to our profession.  My apologies on the delayed reply and acknowledgement of your letter to the NCCAOM Board-I did not want to respond with only a cursory acknowledgement given the energy and effort of your letter.  I will share your letter with the rest of the Board of Commissioners.

That said, I do want to address some of the points you made in the letter.  I hope you will not take my comments as a dismissal of your concerns – I would simply like to clear up some misunderstandings. I am not able to address all of them in this moment, but I would like the opportunity to clarify in the future.  A few points:

-The CEO is not responsible for setting up recertification criteria- that process is done by the Recertification committee(again within the parameters of maintaining our certification).   Continuing education is a non-negotiable.  That said, it has been noted and suggested that the process be more streamlined.

-Exam content is driven by a specific process dictated by NCCA standards; it is acknowledged that the end result is an exam that weighs heavily on TCM.  That is a challenge that we continue to attempt to address.  We are always looking for new suggestions – within the parameters that we must maintain to keep our certification.  As was mentioned, there are budgetary considerations to developing additional psychometrically valid exams as well as the challenge of having enough practitioners to determine psychometric validity and objectivity.

-States that have added herbal certification to their licensing act have initiated that either through the professional association or the state regulatory board. We have not initiated this despite some of the rumors.

-With regards to stakeholder input: whenever possible and applicable, we do seek stakeholder input.  There are times where stakeholder input does not weigh in on a decision – i.e. compliance with new requirements from NCCA, exam validity requirements, ; and issues where we actively sought stakeholder input – i.e. the revision of the code of ethics, the herbal safety certificate creation, etc.

Thank you again,

Best regards,

Afua

Afua Bromley, L.Ac., MSOM, Dipl.Ac. NCCAOM

Chair, NCCAOM Board of Commissioners

I fear my frustration at hearing the same old talking points resulted in a brusque response.

Dear Afua,

Thank you so much for taking the time to respond. I appreciate it.

Will you be at the ASA meetings this coming weekend? I’ll be participating. If you will be attending, perhaps we’d have a chance to talk through these issues in person? In the meantime, I’ll share some thoughts.

Perhaps I shouldn’t take it so literally, but I don’t think there are any misunderstandings here. Perhaps my comments at the CCAOM meetings, and in my blog, could not thoroughly illustrate my  knowledge of these issues. I’m well aware of the complexities of the NCCAOM’s situation. We may certainly have some differences of opinion about what is possible, ideal, effective, or desirable, but I don’t think any misunderstanding is the issue.

Specifically, in response to your email –

  • I understand that CEO’s generally defer to committees for policy proposals. And yet it would be unusual if the CEO did not influence, to some degree, the work of the committee and decisions about how to refine, implement, or adopt committee proposals. In any case, I hope my letter, and the input of the profession as a whole, will be considered by the recertification committee. I agree that continuing education is a standard aspect of ongoing certification for health professionals and others. But the degree of involvement the NCCAOM has in approving classes, and the level of reporting it requires of Diplomates, is outside of normal practices. Requiring providers to pay you to have their courses approved raises questions about your motivations. I look forward to seeing how the committee can better align the cost to the profession of your system of approvals and tracking, with the benefit to the profession of such an onerous system.
  • I’ve heard, over the years, several versions of the “We realize the TCM focus of the exam is a problem, we share your concerns, we’d love to hear your proposals, but the NCCA guidelines, and budgetary constraints, mean we aren’t going to be able to do anything about it” response. If your understanding of the NCCA requirements you have been working under leave you seeing no path forward for a non-TCM based exam, wouldn’t it be more honest to acknowledge that? I can imagine several possible solutions – dropping the lineage based portions of the exam completely and leaving it to schools to verify that aspect of a student’s training, just as it currently defers to CCAOM for CNT testing, is one. I understand from those with more expertise than I, that the JTA used by the NCCAOM has significant flaws, so developing a new JTA would be another approach. Perhaps working with a group other than the NCCA would be helpful. I don’t believe there is no solution to this problem, but if those at the NCCAOM who are most familiar with the NCCA requirements don’t see any room for change, acknowledge that. Let’s not waste the time of others by pretending you’ll consider other options.
  • I was tracking the NCCAOM participation in the original DE licensure law in real time, and have media reports [An Example]from the time, showing Mr. Taromina actively pushing for the herbal requirement for all licensees. The professional association reported being persuaded by Mr. Taromina that the herbal requirement would be the best path forward. In Utah [We Have Met the Enemy], any investigation would have shown that the position of the professional association (no longer functional, I believe) was taken in response to one individual’s desire to retaliate against graduates of a particular school. The NCCAOM made no attempt to assess the position of the many Diplomates in the state who were unaffiliated with the professional association. And the NCCAOM has yet to offer any correction of the letter, written by that association and distributed by the NCCAOM, saying that the NCCAOM agreed with the proposed change. Last, but not least, the NCCAOM says it supports all Diplomates. If so, the proper participation of the NCCAOM in response to proposed regulation that would  eliminate licensure for Diplomates of Acupuncture would be a vehement renunciation of such efforts and a statement that it believes that Board Certification in Acupuncture is the only Certification that should be required for licensure.
  • In a recent example, the NCCAOM announcement of changes to testing procedures was met with expression of concern from stakeholders. In response, the NCCAOM made adjustments so that the changes would be less onerous to those about to graduate. Checking in with schools prior to the initial announcement would have meant those changes could have been made proactively, and schools would have been prepared for their student’s concerns. Clearly, there was some room for adjustment. There is not such a bright line between where stakeholder input is possible and applicable, and where it isn’t, as the NCCAOM repeatedly states.

Perhaps you didn’t notice the wish in my letter —  “that when concerns were brought to your attention you didn’t deny or evade or misrepresent what happened.” Your reply here contains all of the denials, evasions and misrepresentations I’ve heard before. As the saying goes, don’t micturate on my leg and tell me it’s raining. Don’t tell me that someone else is making you aim this way, or that budgetary constraints are to blame. It is possible for the NCCAOM to do better. The first step is owning the problem. I’m still waiting for that.

With hopes for a better future,

Elaine Wolf Komarow, LAc, Dipl. Ac.

The good news is that it looks like I will be able to talk with NCCAOM folks this weekend. I hope that gives me some good news to share. The bad news – it means there will be another blog post.

 

NCCAOM Issues – Here’s a Real-Life Example.

Last week’s post generated lots of feedback – in the comments and elsewhere. Several people reached  out to me with stories about how their professional success was negatively impacted by NCCAOM policies or procedures.

An individual trained to be an acupuncturist wrote:

I graduated from an acupuncture school outside the country in November 2017. The NCCAOM requires that those trained outside the US must have their documents evaluated by a third party in order to apply and sit for the NCCAOM exams. As of November 2017 the NCCAOM only accepts documents evaluated by the International Consultants of Delaware (ICD).

In December 2017 I began my long ordeal with this organization. After 8 months of emails and phone calls going unanswered or minimally responded to with a form letter, I contacted NCCAOM to inform them that the company they were requiring me and others to use had appalling business practices that were preventing me from taking the NCCAOM exams, applying for a state license and starting a job that was being held for me.

Happily, I did get immediate help from the contact at NCCAOM. They intervened on my behalf and took my educational documents for their own review. However, I was then notified that I still needed ICD evaluation as the NCCAOM could not approve a “non-traditional” transcript. They also said they were not familiar with the school.

The school I attended has been graduating American students for over 15 years, and many have returned, successfully sat for the NCCAOM exams, and obtained licensure in the US. However, now it seems that the format of the provided transcripts are unacceptable; nothing has changed from the school’s perspective.  The only suggestions offered by the NCCAOM are not feasible, such as giving them the names and other personal information of past American students in order to compare what would be identical transcripts, my completing a 2 year apprenticeship (not acceptable for licensure in my state), or the school rewriting their program.

It has now been 18 months since I started this process and am no closer to being allowed to even apply for the NCCAOM exams. It seems incredible to me, and many others, that the format of transcripts, paperwork really, is all that is keeping me from fulfilling my dream. The NCCAOM has nothing to lose by allowing me to take the exams only the gain of my $1500. If I fail, then that is on me.

P.K.

 

The LAc who wants to hire P.K. wrote:

Dear NCCAOM,

As a licensed acupuncturist in practice since 1995, I have been saddened to watch the new generation of acupuncturists struggle with ballooning student loan debt and escalating practice requirements. The combination is eating away at our numbers. This acutely affects the public, our clinics, and those of us hoping to retire some day and pass our clinics on.

As an employer, I am immensely frustrated, because your practices are blocking me from hiring.

P. K. has been my clinic’s office manager, front desk staffer and clinical assistant for more than 3 1/2 years.  She is bright, committed, compassionate and skilled.  She excelled in her three years as a student at a well regarded European acupuncture school.  She comes highly recommended by the school’s president. She has been a delight and a pleasure to work with, continually exceeding my expectations, and our patients are very fond of her.

Meanwhile, I am busy, frequently over booked, and have been looking to add to my clinical staff, with no luck, for quite some time. There is a shortage of licensed acupuncturists in my area interested in a high volume, low fee, community style of practice. I offered P. a position as a community acupuncturist in early 2018, contingent on her obtaining a Massachusetts acupuncture license, and she accepted. Since then, I have been waiting, watching as she does what she can to obtain licensure, while the NCCAOM has been a roadblock in that process.

P. has spelled out in her own narrative the details of her efforts to get approved to take your exam.  When I reached out to you on this matter, we were asked to provide information on previous grads of her school who have sat for the NCCAOM exam — information that neither of us has any access to, but which no doubt, resides in your own files.

Consequently, P. has been left in limbo, with no path forward to practice in the US.  My clinic remains understaffed, and I have no ability to hire the person I’ve chosen, who is best prepared to succeed in this position.  Our state is unable to add a skilled acupuncturist to our numbers. It is all very frustrating, and sad.

A final thought — the whole idea of a licensing exam is to evaluate whether or not a graduate is prepared to enter the field.  If you trust your exam’s ability to function as it was designed, blocking graduates from taking the exam makes no sense.

D. D., Lic Acupuncturist

 

I (The Acupuncture Observer) do believe that requiring a combination of education and examination is the best way to increase the odds that a licensee will be a safe and effective practitioner. Folks with good study skills and an ability to memorize can pass exams without being able to apply what they know in practice. The NCCAOM exams can’t test whether a candidate can identify the signs used in diagnosis, for example. And, the schools have an incentive to say all of their students know enough to be practitioners.

I acknowledge that, for better or worse, the NCCAOM currently requires graduation from an ACAOM-accredited school, or an overseas equivalent. And that means they have to have some method of determining equivalence.

And, yet, is there no solution here? Is it really better for the public, or the profession, that a business and a community goes without the help it needs, while a well-educated and well-trained individual who wants to fill that need is sidelined, with an expensive education wasted?

I think the NCCAOM can and should do better. If they can’t, we need to allow another path to licensure.

 

The NCCAOM Replies

In early August I received a comment from Mina Larson of the NCCAOM in response to A Feature or a Bug. I approved it, replied, and now, with a bit more time, will give it a closer look.

I always encourage those who disagree with my posts to share their thoughts in the comments. I moderate to limit rudeness, screeds, and ad hominem attacks, not viewpoints. I’ll run guest posts, though I admit I’m more enthusiastic when the guest is a voice that doesn’t already have access to various other megaphones.

As I wrote in About Me,

” I continue to do my best to serve the profession and the public by encouraging a deeper exploration of the professional choices we are making. This blog is an effort to provide a forum for the dialogue necessary for our success.

All of my writing for The Acupuncture Observer reflects my own opinion.  I do not speak for any organization or board and am not representing any group here. I apologize in advance for any mistakes. Please let me know of any errors so that they can be corrected.”

Now, Mina’s comment (in italics), and my responses:

Elaine, it is very disappointing and alarming that you do not share with your group the many times I have communicated with you, informed you and updated you on updates on and rationale for proposed and new policy decisions – even our decision to not move forward proposed policies when we received input from our Diplomates (you were one of them) regarding a PDA and eligibility proposed policies a few years back. You also conveniently forgot to mention the fact that we delayed our linear testing (that we have to do to stay complaint with adaptive testing) and pre-grad elimination (also to stay compliant [sic] for our accreditation) based on stakeholder input. Please see NCCAOM Student Webinar: http://www.nccaom.org/nccaom-webinars-posted/student-webinars/

 

Mina, I have been unclear on whether all of our discussions are “on the record.” In several cases I have not shared our communications as I was unsure what was official NCCAOM policy. I’ll do better in this regard in the future. In many cases our discussions have not changed my assessment of the situation. Some of our talks were a factor in my feeling that the NCCAOM talks out of both sides of their mouth. I did not “forget to mention” to the times the NCCAOM has changed or delayed changes in response to input, I specifically refer to it. I even include a link to the announcement of the delay in linear testing, as well as an additional post (June 5th) reporting on some changes.

You continue to also bring up the NCCAOM testimony in Utah, in which I have provided information about our Chinese Herbology exam and requirements upon request by the Utah Advisory Board of Acupuncture. We testify at state hearings upon request from state regulatory boards and state associations to provide information about our standards and our exams. That is what credentialing organizations do! The herbal exam is one of our requirements for OM Certification and if you listen to the testimony at the Utah hearing, we provided information. We did not “side” with any group during that meeting. I had several meetings with groups opposed to and for the CH exam. We do not “pick and chose” what hearings we should go to – we are there to provide information about our standards and exams and to support our Diplomates in that state. How do you think there are now 47 states that have a practice act for acupuncture? We have been involved with helping a majority of these states to develop a practice act. How convenient you leave this info out.

I included a link to the entire testimony in the post about Utah. In that post, I include a link to a letter (UtahNCCAOMletter), distributed under the NCCAOM’s auspices and letterhead, showing that the NCCAOM supported the position of the state association and regulatory board to require the herbal testing. Although, in discussion, you told me that the letter was a mistake, the NCCAOM has not done anything to correct record. If the profession is confused about the NCCAOM’s position, that is on the NCCAOM. You and I went through that post word for word. In the end, the only place you could quibble with my writing was that my statement that the NCCAOM was unwilling to reconsider the hourly requirements for sitting the test did not include your position that that change was not within the NCCAOM’s purview.

In the interest of space, every post leaves out all sorts of history. Overall, I have often expressed my appreciation for the hard work of the NCCAOM.

Yet some people want to blame the NCCAOM for any problems with the profession. They want to point out that we moved to DC from Florida, but leave out the fact that not one dollar was spent on “moving employees”. Any employee who moved to the DC area from Florida, paid their own expenses. It is very disturbing to see people making false assumptions and publish information that is not validated. We did not invest, lease or buy headquarters, in fact, we are sharing our space with other associations in DC so that we can give those funds back to our Diplomates through our advocacy and PR work for promoting them and our profession.

I can’t be held responsible for what “some people” think. I have often defended the NCCAOM. I have not concerned myself for one second about where you are moving and how much it is costing. It’s an insignificant issue in my book. The NCCAOM has a MONTHLY column in Acupuncture Today, and the ability to mail or email every single Diplomate in the US. If you can’t make your case to “some people” I hardly think I’m responsible.

Now the gossip continues by assumptions that we go out and testify on selected issues, when what we do and have always done is testify and provide support to state associations who need our help or regulatory boards who request our input on NCCAOM standards. How come you do not speak of the many times we have traveled to states to provide information to advance the profession and our work with the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the VA? You and others on this blog choose to ignore the information on our website and focus on assumptions.

I have often reported on the work of the NCCAOM in various states. Your work is widely reported in AT and in your news alerts. There is no need for me to cover it extensively, though I do cover it. I link to the NCCAOM website and publications regularly.

You seem to leave those details out! How come you publish our 990s but forget to reveal that Kory, I and other NCCAOM dedicated employees work around the clock to help our Diplomates? You even have my cell phone number and I have taken your calls weekends, nights, holiday, but you are on a mission to discredit the NCCAOM because there needs to be someone to blame for issues in the profession. Anyone can also take a look at our annual report on our website with our financial statements. In fact, if you were to look at the data from the last couple of years, you will see a deficit as we have invested to give back to the profession. If you want evidence, just contact associations in Kansas, Wyoming and others who received practice acts last year as well as associations like FSOMA whom we have helped over the years, just to name a few.

I don’t leave those details out. I am glad for your hard work, and have said so many times. I appreciate your willingness to communicate. The 990’s and annual report stand for themselves.

In is also interesting that you have also left out the PR and advocacy work that the NCCAOM has accomplished (please go to http://www.nccaom.org for this information) to advance the profession. I have learned in my 15 years of serving this profession, there are some amazing people that make a difference by collaboration, selflessness and hard work and some who will continue to point fingers, have agendas, and cause needless disruption at a time when we need to unify to strengthen our medicine and the profession.

I haven’t left any of this out. I agree that there are many people working hard to strengthen the profession. I too, have worked selflessly on boards, with associations, to increase collaboration and unity. My goal is never “needless disruption” and I am sad that you seem to believe that is what I am doing.

Many of us have worked to build a better profession. And, honestly, much has been done that has not served us well. We have created fault lines, left qualified practitioners with limited options (requiring the herbal exam of all practitioners is one example), and selected winners and losers among the varied lineages behind this medicine. My efforts have always been to help us learn from our past and from the experiences of other professions, so that we protect the public without unnecessarily limiting freedom to practice and without putting additional burdens on professionals who are struggling for success.

It’s too bad that within this medicine, which looks for balance and harmony, we have so much trouble negotiating our differences.

Firefighting

More than 42,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses in 2016. In 2009 at least 23.5 million people over the age of 12 needed treatment for illicit drug or alcohol use in the US. That number is growing dramatically.

People are dying.

LAcs are rightfully enthusiastic about the use of acupuncture to treat the physical and emotional pain that can lead to the use of and dependence on addictive medications and drugs. We have been proud of the history of auricular acupuncture helping those who struggle with addiction.

The development of a profession of Licensed Acupuncturists and the spread of acupuncture detox specialists happened comfortably, side-by-side, for a long while. Lincoln Recovery in the Bronx was treating addicts with acupuncture in 1974. In 1975 (More History ) the Traditional Acupuncture Institute was founded in Maryland. The AAAOM was incorporated in 1983, NADA in 1985. In many states, auricular acupuncture programs predated the regulation of acupuncture. Their safety and effectiveness was used promote acupuncture and lobby for Licensure.

In 2005 South Carolina (currently 123 LAcs, 658 deaths in 2016 related to prescription opioids and heroin) passed a licensure law with a dark side. Although 53 Acupuncture Detox Specialists (ADSes) had been working without incident in South Carolina, language was included that required an LAc be on site to supervise ADSes. With zero LAcs at the time the law passed, no ADS could continue to treat. (The force behind the legislation was Acupuncturist and then-president of the AAAOM, Martin Herbkersman, whose brother was and is SC state Representative Bill Herbkersman. Rep. Herbkersman also shut down a 2007 bill that would have removed the direct supervision requirement.)

Programs to provide the NADA protocol to addicts have been limited by the supervision requirement.

People are dying.

Unfortunately, South Carolina is not a fluke. The only voices against New Hampshire HB 575, allowing for the certification of acupuncture detox specialists, were the voices of LAcs. Luckily for New Hampshire (127 LAcs, almost 400 opioid related deaths in 2015, over 2000 opioid-related ED visits), the bill passed.

Connecticut (323 LAcs, 539 overdose deaths in the first six months of 2017) did pass a law expanding use of ADSes, but comments in response to the legislation from LAcs included gems like, “acupuncture should be left to the experts, the licensed acupuncturists” and ADSes “have absolutely no idea what it truly entails to safely provide acupuncture to others whether it be one needle or many.”

People are dying.

Remember, at least 42,000 opioid deaths in 2016. The number of Acupuncturists in the US? About 32,000 at best. Dealing with the epidemic is expensive, funding is limited.

It’s a crisis.

  • If you believe ADSes require in-person supervision, become a supervisor.
  • If you believe only LAcs should provide the NADA protocol, commit to weekly shifts at recovery centers, jails, and other programs, and take responsibility for daily staffing of those programs. Remember, funding will be minimal or nonexistent, and, unreliable.
  • If you believe that everyone deserves the benefits of full body treatment, commit to provide them to everyone – even if they can’t pay, don’t have reliable transportation, and aren’t as tidy as your typical clientele.
  • If you believe ADSes should work only within treatment programs available to those in active addiction, make sure your services are accessible to those struggling to maintain their recovery, whatever their circumstances.

Remember, some of the people most needing treatment won’t have insurance, housing, financial resources, steady employment, or reliable transportation. Where and how will you provide the services you think they should have?

If you don’t want to supervise, don’t want to treat everyone who walks through your door regardless of ability to pay, and don’t want to take regular shifts at treatment facilities, then, please, get out of the way of the people who do. Better yet, support them.

People are dying.

I’ve joined NADA, I’m making plans to receive training, and I’ll keep supporting efforts to increase access to NADA-trained providers in all states.

People are dying.

 

This post is in honor of Dr. Michael O. Smith. May his memory be for a blessing.

Fourth Night – Service

Join your state acupuncture association.

At least once in your professional life, serve on the Board of that association, or, serve on the Board of another professional group, or serve on a committee that serves the profession, or serve in a regulatory position.

If you support other groups, like AWB, SAR, POCA, join them too. But not instead.

Join your state association even if you are thinking “but they haven’t done anything that I agree with” or “they don’t do anything at all” or “they are a bunch of a-holes who actively work against my interests” or, “I already support these other organizations that actually do the stuff I care about.”

Trust me, when I get a newsletter telling me that a top priority for my state association is continuing the fight against dry needling, I struggle to write that membership check. (Because the fight has sucked up our resources and poisoned relations with potential allies and there is no chance we’ll win.)

Why give your hard-earned and too often insufficient money to a group that you believe uses it poorly?

  1. Membership organizations are designed to represent the needs and desires of their membership. To think “I’ll join when they stop doing stupid stuff I hate” is asking them to put the preferences of non-members over members, and that’s unreasonable.
  2. Health care is regulated by the states, and the state association has some degree of power (it varies from state to state) over regulations, legislation, and appointments. It’s good to have a say in how they’ll use that power.
  3. The policies of our best hope for a productive, consensus-building, national organization meant to serve all LAcs, the ASA, are determined by a Council, the membership of which is determined by state associations.
  4. There aren’t that many of us. Even if state associations have 25% of their state’s practitioners as members (optimistic – though maybe our lower percentage is related to misperceptions in how many LAcs practice in the state) that’s still a small number. It’s hard to do much if your organization is supported by and represents fifty people.

You should serve on a Board at least once because –

  1. The experience of: working to give people what they want, balancing the demands of those who want very different things, explaining that there is no shortage of good ideas just resources, explaining (again) why the association can’t provide a health insurance plan, giving people what they’ve asked for only to find out they weren’t really going to take advantage of it (you all said you wanted inexpensive monthly CEU classes, but only two of you came) – is educational. It builds compassion and understanding for those who serve.
  2. It will teach you a lot about regulation, legislation, and how some of what people insist we could do if we just FOUGHT, is not actually doable, even when everyone involved fights their hardest.
  3. Numbers again. A fifty person organization, with a five person board, and three committees of three people means about a third of the members have to be serving at any given time.
  4. People usually become willing to make the sacrifice of serving when they get worked up about something. They feel strongly about a particular issue. It’s good to have balance so one strong leader doesn’t shut out other voices.

Now, for my friends who are serving –

  1. Thank You!
  2. Working for consensus is good. Compromise is good. Listen to the concerns of all of your colleagues and don’t automatically respond with the party line. Be thoughtful.
  3. We’d have an easier time getting people to serve if Board members didn’t end up burdened with tons of administrative work. $$ for political action is important, but let’s not neglect the benefits of $ for organizational support.
  4. Criticism is not the same as negativity. Some positions and actions are deserving of criticism. If we don’t dismiss it, we can learn.

 

And, for all of us — let’s not take our differences personally.

 

(It’s not dark yet. I made it.)

 

(Note to self, 8 posts in 8 days requires advance planning. Not a good spur of the moment project.)

 

 

Success is Accessible!

When choosing or upgrading your office there is one consideration that will have a profound impact. Prioritizing it will help you —

  • retain clients for decades
  • appeal to clients who need your services regularly
  • decrease the need to make house calls
  • contract with insurance companies
  • participate in federal programs (such as Veterans Choice and ACA plans)
  • gain respect and referrals from other health care providers
  • keep your office in one location for the duration of your career
  • reduce legal threats
  • minimize workplace injuries to you and your staff
  • comply with civil rights law.

It’s a win, win, win, win, win, win, win,win, win, win.

That consideration is compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in every day activities, including medical services. Any private entity that owns, leases or leases to, or operates a place of public accommodation (that includes your office) is responsible for complying with Title III of the ADA. (Source – DOJ/HHS Publication)

19% of the US population reported having a disability in the 2010 census.

If you are blessed with good client retention and a lengthy career your patient population is likely to increasingly include those with disabilities. You might develop your own temporary, or permanent, mobility issues.

Acupuncture schools need to teach students about our responsibilities under the ADA. Ethics classes should address the de facto discrimination that occurs when we choose inaccessible work spaces. And, when practitioners seek advice from peers about potential office arrangements, renovations, or accommodations (such as interpreters) emphasis should be on the legal, ethical, and practical benefits of compliance. Preemptive absolution is offered too often, especially by those who don’t understand the law.

The ADA does include exemptions to protect small businesses from accommodations that would be an “undue burden.” Is a $2,000 lift table an undue burden? How much have you spent on Biomats, lasers, tuning forks, and travel to conferences? Rent for a first floor office might be more, but house calls also affect your bottom line. (If you rely on house calls to comply with the ADA requirements for accessibility, remember: you can’t charge more, you must offer the same level of service, you have to offer flexible scheduling as you would to your in-office clients, and, if you are accepting new clients it is discrimination not to accept those whose disability would make your office inaccessible.)

It’s true, individual practitioners who don’t comply are unlikely to suffer legal consequences and many Practices flourish despite a lack of accessibility.

“Getting away” with not complying is no way to run a business or a health care profession. Doing all we can to meet the needs of those with disabilities is good business, good for the profession, and good for the public. It should be a top priority.

Here are some resources to help you understand the ADA and our responsibilities —

Access to Medical Care for Individuals with Mobility Disabilities

Americans with Disabilities Act Title III Regulations

Title III Highlights

ADA Q & A for Health Care Providers

ADA Checklist for Existing Facilities

ADA and Small Businesses

NPR Story about Accessing Care for People with Disabilities

Post on California Law impacting Lease negotiations

ADA Enforcement Activities

ADA in a Health Care Context

ADA for Deaf and Hard of Hearing

Helping the Helpers in Nepal

Today I bring you a guest post from my esteemed colleague Sharon Crowell, who has previously served in Nepal with AWB.

Sharon writes —

Many of us are wondering how to best use our resources to support the victims and first responders to Nepal’s devastating earthquake.  Here is one easy thing you can do in the next ten minutes that will make a difference without costing you a dime.

The Fairfax County Search and Rescue Team was deployed to Nepal a few days ago.  The team consists  of 57 men and women along with specially trained  search and rescue dogs.  This mission is funded by the government and the people who are going are being paid their salary as fire fighters for the time that they are away.  All meals, equipment, etc. are provided.

What the team DOES need, according to my neighbor who served on the Search and Rescue Team for more than 20 years, is notes of encouragement and support.  When I asked him what we could do support those serving in Nepal, he said a simple note to the Fairfax Fire Chief would be the best thing he could think of.  These notes of thanks and appreciation are copied and sent to all of those on the S&R team.  My neighbor says that we can’t imagine how much it means to return home, exhausted and weary, and be greeted by notes of appreciation from people throughout the community.

So a short note, letting the Fire Chief know how proud you are that Fairfax County is serving Nepal in this way this way, wishing for the safe return home of those on the team, and anything personal you might want to say.

Thank you!  For those reading this who are acupuncturists, we are in the process of figuring out how we might be able to support these folks through a community-type of acupuncture clinic, weekly for 6 weeks, once they return home.  I will be working with the Fire Department on this.  Please let me know if  you have ideas regarding this or want to participate (pending details, I know.)

Richard R. Bowers, Jr.;  Fairfax County Fire and Rescue;   Department 4100;  Chain Bridge Road;  Fairfax, VA 22030;  Snail mail is best (email address is www.fairfaxcounty.gov/fr/ )  (e-mail of the Search and Rescue Team info@vatf1.org )

Sharon can be reached at 703-623-8340