Acupuncture treatments often cost in the neighborhood of $100 for the first visit and $60 to $70 after that, which might not seem like much if you have a good health-insurance plan that covers it.
At the Rogue Valley Acupuncture Project in Phoenix, acupuncturist Kris Kokay answers his own phone, maintains a humble office, treats several people in the same room at once — and he doesn't take insurance.
The result is that he can charge $35 for the first visit and $20 after that. It's called community acupuncture and, says Kokay, 35, "the whole idea is that it's accessible and affordable. Acupuncture evolved with individual rooms, relatively expensive, something for the upper-middle class. Now we're making it accessible for blue-collar families."
Kelli Larson of Talent tried acupuncture for the first time after rolling her car, which led to problems with persistent disorientation.
She says the group setting at Rogue Valley Acupuncture Project "didn't affect me. His demeanor was relaxing and unpretentious. It felt like a mini-vacation, like I was cocooned in a quiet space."
The description seems apt. In a darkened central room, patients are kicked back in recliners. Some appear to be snoozing with needles in their legs and arms. Only rarely, says Kokay, does he need to place needles on the trunk of the body — and if that's the case, there's a private room for it. Sessions take 20 to 30 minutes and will sometimes involve nutritional counseling or Chinese herbs.
"I love it," says Rebecca Gold of Talent. "I was afraid of needles but I'm not now. I came for back pain and overall increase in health. One treatment for pain was amazing. The cost makes it totally affordable. I had low energy and low thyroid. My level of energy is greatly improved and my thyroid is much better."
Larson notes that her car insurance covered other medical treatments from the accident, but she doesn't mind that Kokay doesn't accept insurance.
"I'm glad to pay out of pocket," she says. "It's only $20, and he's such a nice person. I want to support what he's doing and keep him employed, so he can help other people."
Dealing with repetitive stress injuries from being a massage therapist and an exercise physiologist, Moondance Forest of Ashland says she receives acupuncture treatments weekly.
"It's helped me," says Forest, who performs massage at the clinic and charges the "community massage" rate of $35 for a one-hour session.
Kokay, a native of Sarasota, Fla., stresses that the term "community" shouldn't be confused with crowded or hectic.
"I don't try to crunch people in," says Kokay, who graduated from the Academy of Chinese Healing Arts in Sarasota, a four-year course of study. "It's usually two or three at a time in a community setting, with maybe another person in a private room. I never have it crowded. Sometimes a family will want to come in together, or maybe if someone is anxious they'll like to come in with a friend."
Kokay came to the Rogue Valley eight years ago and has been at his present location off Highway 99 in Phoenix for eight months. He works closely, he says, with another community acupuncture clinic — Community Acupuncture and Natural Health, which has locations in Central Point and Ashland.
"It makes it friendly and accessible for people, and it opens it up for people who don't have insurance and maybe couldn't afford acupuncture," Kokay says.
Rogue Valley Acupuncture Project is at 471 Bear Creek Drive, Phoenix. For information, call 541-324-6128 or see www.roguehealing.com.