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Volunteer Acupuncture with California CareForce

by Johanna Utter, L.Ac., FABORM

California CareForce Johanna Utter Acupuncture

I was invited to volunteer with California CareForce in Chico the first weekend of August. California CareForce is a group of medical professionals, community leaders, and engaged citizens who provide free medical, dental and vision care to those in need at temporary clinics across California. Their volunteers believe that everyone, regardless of their background, deserves access to healthcare. As such, they make no restrictions based on income, employment, or immigration status. They do not require insurance or ID to serve patients and all services are provided at no cost.

The services offered at most California CareForce clinics include: general check-ups and physicals in our Medical Section; cleanings, extractions, and fillings in their Dental Section; and, eye health checks, vision exams, and custom prescription glasses made on-site in their Vision Section. Acupuncture and chiropractic is offered at some clinics, depending on volunteer signups.

In Chico, we worked at the Silver Dollar County Fairgrounds and makeshift treatment rooms were set up using metal poles and curtains to separate them. The set-up reminded me of the TV show M*A*S*H, except that we were not near a war, thankfully!

People who were interested in services showed up the day before to obtain a wrist band. They could receive medical services on both days, but because vision and dental were so popular, they could only do one of those on any given day and needed to come back the next day for the other one.

As folks arrived on the weekend, they needed to go through medical triage to assess whether they could have dental or vision services. If their blood sugar or blood pressure was too high, they had to first receive treatment (usually medication), then wait a bit to recheck. Once they passed, they could then move onto the next step, either vision or dental. Because of increased medical care coverage through Medi-Cal and Covered California, fewer people needed other medical services.

The mornings started off a bit slow because people needed to go through the triage section first, but it was so busy in the afternoon of the first day that we had a long waiting list and asked people to come back the next day. The volunteer chiropractor did not show up, so some of those patients chose to see me instead. I provided approximately 30 treatments the first day and over 20 the second day, with some people coming in twice.

The most common things I saw were back, neck, shoulder, and knee pain, so I got a lot of practice treating those over and over. Using the Balance Method system that I learned at the end of May, I palpated and needled tender points that were away from the painful part they wanted treated. Results were pretty quick and both the patients and I were amazed!

About a half dozen women I treated only spoke Spanish, so I worked with an interpreter.  It was fun watching all of their faces as pains disappeared and they were able to move stiff body parts more easily. I was also shadowed on the first day by the teenage daughter of one of the volunteering physicians.

California CareForce’s Sacramento Clinic will be at Cal Expo on October 25th and 26th. The event scheduled after that will be the weekend of January 11th and 12th at the Nevada County Fairgrounds in Grass Valley. If you are interested in supporting California CareForce, you can volunteer your time (in Sacramento) or donate You can also visit their website or their Facebook page for more information.

California CareForce is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization that relies solely on funding from grants, sponsorships, foundations and individual donations. Any support they receive helps provide thousands of dollars worth of dental, vision and medical care, at no cost, with no restrictions based on income, employment, insurance, residency, etc. to thousands of Californians with nowhere else to turn. 


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