The drastic effects of addiction upon psychiatric clients of Chicago's Community Mental Health Council (CMHC) led the agency to try ear acupuncture. Excellent results followed, measured by a big reduction in attrition from supportive housing.

The south side agency's residential program had been struggling to maintain 50% census. After nearby Jackson Park Hospital accepted CMHC clients needing stabilization into its acu detox program, occupancy jumped to 90% to 100%. Later, when Jackson Park opted to discontinue acu detox due to licensing and code problems, CMHC applied to take over and re-site the hospital's outpatient addictions program. Coordinating the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association (NADA) protocol-based program for CMHC is Arthur Pinkney, MA, assistant director of rehabilitation services. Pinkney is a former NADA board member and registered trainer.

Ear needling, administered by RNs with NADA training, occurs twice a day for eight to 12 clients per session, Pinkney explains. Most of the clients who come for acu detox have both addiction and mental health issues. "What we see, especially with the [dual disorder] clients, is the acupuncture reducing anxiety, helping depression, and calming of the side effects of the [psychiatric] medications, says Pinkney.

The acu detox clinic serves clients in both the straight addiction outpatient treatment and the dual disorder programs offered by CMHC. In terms of demographic, Pinkney reports 95% of the population are African American, equally balanced with men and women with median age in the high 30's aged 25- 60. Alcohol and cocaine are the top reported substances, followed by heroin and marijuana. Diagnoses in the dual disorder population include depression and anxiety disorders, mood disorder (some with psychotic features) and schizophrenia. These clients do not have restrictions on length of stay, and may remain in treatment from a few months to several years, Pinkney says.

The treatment services include American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) levels I and II (standard and intensive outpatient levels of care). Pinkney estimates about 50 dual and 20 addiction only clients are engaged at any given point in time. About half of the acu detox users live on their own. The others reside in CMHC supportive housing programs and get daily transportation to the program. Clients typically get daily ear needling for the first three to four weeks, then gradually decrease their frequency, Pinkney finds. Even when they don't get needles, clients come in just to have a cup of tea and "cool out" he adds.

Pinkney credits Carl Bell, MD, president and CEO of CMHC with introducing acu detox to Chicago twelve years ago. Pinkney originally integrated acu detox into the Jackson Park inpatient and outpatient addiction treatment tracks.

The council's funding streams include the Illinois office of mental health, Medicare. Medicaid, and private insurance, says Pinkney. Acu detox services are billed as stress reduction/stress management groups. Because acu detox works so well with the co-existing mental illness, CMHC plans to expand the ear needling services making them available to the general mental health population. Other plans include bringing acu detox and dual disorder services to a new site in Englewood in the city's south-west area.

CMHC offers acu detox treatments to its 150 staff members from throughout the various departments free of charge. They can either join in on the scheduled client sessions or at other times with a simple phone call. About 15 do so on a semi-regular basis, says Pinkney. Pinkney expects to set up an acu detox training site at CMHC with ongoing NADA-ADS training opportunities similar to those available on the East and West coasts now.

Contact: J. Arthur Pinkney, MA, Community Mental Health Council, 8704 S Constance, Chicago IL 60617. Phone (773) 734-4033 Ext 193, Fax (773) 734-0357.

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