Shasta Community Acupuncture
By Melissa Mendonca
Photo by James Mazzotta
Jean and J.P. O'Hara made a list of qualities they required in a community when they decided to uproot their private acupuncture practice in Southern California to open a community clinic. They needed a place that was affordable, surrounded by beautiful nature and wasn’t already supporting a community acupuncture practice. “I scouted vigorously online when we were in Huntington Beach,” says J.P.
When he landed on Redding, he knew he was on to something, so he got in his car to scout the area. “And I went to Whiskeytown and came back and told Jean we have to move here,” he says.
The couple packed their bags and took a chance on establishing a business in a community only one of them had visited and where neither of them had connections. They arrived on October 15, 2015, and opened Shasta Community Acupuncture on November 7 of the same year, hoping to bring something good to the community.
That “something good” is an acupuncture clinic based on a proven model to bring affordable care to a larger group of consumers based on practices that lower costs without compromising effectiveness or privacy. Patients pay on a sliding scale from $15 to $40 per treatment with no questions asked. They will reduce their fees to $10 per session for veterans, and note that acupuncture has a protocol for PTSD.
Community acupuncture is practiced in a group setting, with patients receiving treatments in recliners while remaining clothed. “The elbows and knees down are the most sensitive with regards to the the nervous system,” says J.P., explaining the distal style of acupuncture the couple practices. Most needles are placed in these areas, and yet are able to treat issues such as back pain, headaches, anxiety, issues of digestion and the respiratory system and much more. “It doesn’t have to be one thing,” says Jean. “We can treat a lot of things at once.”
While patients recline in proximity to each other, Jean and J.P. speak in low voices and keep calming music playing with white noise machines to maintain privacy. “People can afford to come a lot more often, so we see them getting better,” says Jean. “It’s exciting to be people’s first acupuncturist and to make it a good experience.”
The couple met at Yo San University in Los Angeles, where they both completed a four-year Master’s program in traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture. They’d each come to the program after personal journeys in healing through these modalities. Jean had sought treatment for carpal tunnel and eye pain related to her career as a video editor in Hollywood. “I got treated at a school clinic and I got better,” she says, noting that this began her quest to understand why the treatments worked.
J.P. came to the practice as he journeyed through yoga and tai-chi in a quest for wellness. “I had a lot of pain when I was finished being an athlete in college,” he says. “I love the interconnectivity of Eastern Medicine.”
Although J.P. admits that he purposefully found his way to a chair next to Jean on his first day of class, the two didn’t mesh until they began volunteering together at a donation-based Vietnamese clinic. “She had to see that I wasn’t just the class clown,” he says with a laugh.
Today, the couple is committed to increasing accessibility of acupuncture through membership in the Portland-based People’s Organization of Community Acupuncture, which provides open-sourced support to practitioners. “Everything is about sharing,” says Jean.
“You’re treating so many more people, so you’re becoming a better acupuncturist,” she adds.
While the couple admits that their private practice left them drained at the end of the day, they are passionate and exhilarated by their clinic in Redding. “Here, people thank us so often,” says Jean. “They tell us how grateful they are that we’ve brought this service here.”
The transition has been good for both of them, as well, with J.P. getting involved in the Crossfit and climbing communities, and Jean rediscovering her childhood love for swimming at Whiskeytown. “We love hiking,” says J.P. “We just started backpacking this summer in Lassen.”
And of course, there’s also the fact that there’s “no traffic. People will look you in the eye and smile,” he adds, “and we run into people we know all the time.”
“I like living in a smaller town,” says Jean. “Word spreads fast if you do a good job. And there are a lot of people doing a good job, trying to make a difference.”
Shasta Community Acupuncture
2539 Victor Ave., Redding