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Hurricane Sandy Aftermath

Beyond Shelter, Food, and Water, Pacific College of Oriental Medicine Heals Community Trauma with Acupuncture

New York, NY – Pacific College provided over 400 acupuncture and massage treatments for stress resulting from hurricane Sandy in 2012, as part of over two million dollars in free services donated to the city of New York this past year.  As most of New York City came to a standstill during the widespread devastation of hurricane Sandy, Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, even while shut down for a week due to a power outage, began providing acupuncture and massage treatments to address the trauma and stress that the hurricane caused in community members and first responders.  Some of the most significant losses still remaining during the New Year go beyond the need for shelter, food, and water, most of which have now been addressed, at least temporarily. “What remains is the long term need for stress relief in the aftermath of what was a widespread community trauma,” according to Malcolm Youngren, campus director, who oversees the college, the acupuncture and massage center clinic, and outreach programs.

Within days of the hurricane, still without power themselves, Pacific College students, staff, and graduates organized acupuncture and massage relief efforts for the community, in cooperation with local and national acupuncture and holistic healing relief organizations.  The college hosted two Acupuncturists Without Borders trainings for over one hundred local acupuncturists to train for post trauma treatments, and provided supplies and organizational assistance for dozens of acupuncture stress management efforts, some of which are continuing in Red Hook, Rockaway, Breezy Point, and other neighborhoods in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and several locations on the Jersey Shore.  Students staffed fourteen free clinics onsite at the college, open to the community as well as providing stress relief treatment for Disaster Medical Assistance Teams (DMAT) including US Surgeon General’s office staff and other first responders.

A client of Julie Cho, one of many Pacific College alumni active in relief efforts, reports that acupuncture helps. "After several days without heat or electricity from hurricane Sandy and several friends whose homes were flooded under 7 feet of water, my heart was heavy with grief and burden. When I saw AWB [Acupuncturists Without Borders], my heart leapt and I felt tears of joy - the […] treatment was an oasis in the desert of darkness, desperation and traumas we were feeling. I sat down next to a friend who is a fellow PTSD survivor from before and immediately we laughed with relief knowing things would get better."

Pacific College of Oriental Medicine is the largest college of acupuncture and Oriental medicine in the U.S., with campuses in New York, Chicago, and San Diego.  The college provided more than 20,000 free and discounted treatments in New York City in 2012 through the Pacific College acupuncture and massage center, off-site clinics at area hospitals and health centers, and outreach programs.

A community wide disaster can traumatize even those who have not experienced direct losses causing people difficulty sleeping, managing their regular lives, and feeling extremely anxious, irritable, or sad. The profound trauma experience keeps us from beginning to rebuild as effectively as we otherwise could. Although counseling and talk therapy are important, healing methods like acupuncture serve a unique complementary role in addressing the physiological trauma response which becomes locked in the body. Community-style acupuncture treatments allow large numbers of people to heal together in a group setting that doesn’t require them to talk about their experience, but just allows them to relax and regain some semblance of normalcy in their body.

Acupuncture is now being used successfully by the college alumni to treat traumatized populations following the Newtown Massacre, as it was after 9/11, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in New Orleans, Haiti and Chile earthquakes, and more.   “Because it is non-narcotic, inexpensive, safe, and effective, acupuncture, now being used in all branches of the U.S. military as well as by veterans, is becoming more and more popular as a treatment for trauma,” according to Youngren. For more information about upcoming free clinics at Pacific College, contact Cynthia Neipris, director of outreach. ###