University offers affordable alternative for health care needs in Shoreline

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Bastyr students Jean-Roberto Don and Yaditza Narvaez practice a structural alignment
 before clinic doors open to patients. Photo by Troy Atkinson. 

By Troy Atkinson

When the Shoreline - Lake Forest Park Senior Center teamed with Bastyr University to offer a weekly one-day naturopathic clinic, there were some people who wondered whether anyone would show up.

That was 12 years ago.

Now, the program contributes to the senior center’s $385,000 yearly operation budget, says senior center director Bob Lohmeyer.

“It is considered a primary program now, but at first we did not know how it would do,” Lohmeyer said. “The response to the program is phenomenal.”

The idea of alternative medicine being an unpopular health care option is dispelled by a 2012 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study that found Americans spend $30 billion annually on visits to alternative practitioners and on natural product supplements.

The figure is comparable to the out-of-pocket spending on conventional physicians and prescription drugs, according to the report.

Donna Myhre, 80, of Lake Forest Park, heard about the clinic through friends 10 years ago and continues to attend. She has even convinced friends and family members to attend, she said.

“I went because I have never wanted to take pills and that’s all the doctors give you,” Myhre said. “I just believe that’s the way to cure yourself. Your body heals itself if you let it.”

Myhre found dietary solutions to thyroid problems at the naturopathic clinic, she said. The level of care and instruction she receives keeps her coming back.

The goal of naturopathic medicine is to identify the root of the illness and treat it by removing obstacles so the body can self-heal, according to the Bastyr’s information page.

There are 11 Bastyr sites in the Seattle area.

“The centers are open to anyone who would like to experience naturopathic medicine, cannot afford it, or would like alternative feedback to an ongoing health concern,” said Bastyr external site coordinator Dr. Jennifer Bennett.

Low-income families have the hardest time accessing alternative care due to out of pocket costs averaging $100 per visit, according to the CDC report. The study found that as family income increased so did the use of alternative health services.

The clinic also curbs costs by providing Non-prescription, herbal, and homeopathic medications for patients who need financial assistance, without cost from a dispensary on site.

Aside from providing primary care alternatives to Seattle communities the clinics serve as a practical training ground for final-year students at Bastyr University.

The cost to Bastyr naturopathic clinic patients is relatively low due to the school supplying all medical materials. A $15 administrative fee per visit goes to the senior center for the cost of hosting.

Every Monday the “Crafts Room” at the senior center is transformed into four exam stations by draped partitions and examination tables with their white paper runner. From 8:30am to 4:00pm, final year students visit with patients under the guidance of a licensed naturopathic physician from Bastyr.

“The students will see the patient on their own, get basic information and then the supervisor will come in and talk with them about treatment and moving forward,” Bennett said.

Dr. John Hibbs prepares for the day’s appointments before patients arrive.
He also helps the senior center by offering home grown dahlias for donations to raise funds.
Photo by Troy Atkinson

Dr. John Hibbs, supervisor for the Shoreline - Lake Forest Senior Center clinic, says that about 60 percent of the patients seen there are senior citizens, although appointments are not restricted by age.

“The students get to work with older people who have longer lists of more advanced health problems, with longer lists of medications,” Hibbs said. “Understanding those complexities is a great value.”

Hibbs moves from station to station throughout the day to oversee examinations and consultations as they are carried out by teams of students and is responsible for all final decisions.

Bastyr also provides free blood pressure and blood sugar services during clinic hours at the center on Mondays. The center offers various health, dining, and recreational services throughout the week.

The clinic, along with other programs the nonprofit senior center hosts, helps fight the isolation of the senior center and its patrons.

“I think it is really neat that the senior center invites patients all ages,” Hibbs said. “It is really important for senior centers to constantly practice being part of the community around them.”

Appointments can be scheduled for patients of all ages by calling the Shoreline - Lake Forest Park Senior Center at 206-365-1536


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