Spring Update

Hello friends,

After a long wait, we are pleased to provide you with an update on the Health Freedom bill, “An Act providing for consumer access to and disclosure of complementary and alternative health services.” The Joint Committee on Public Health has delayed its decision on whether to move our bill forward this session.

This means that we may get word anytime between now and late June. This also means that we have more time – albeit undefined – to advocate for the Committee to vote to pass the bill this session! Stay tuned for details about how to make your voice heard in the Commonwealth. We’ll need to act quickly!


Our Bill Was Heard

We are happy to announce that step one of getting our bill passed has been checked off. (YAY!) We submitted the bill and provided testimony on November 17th to the Joint Committee on Public Health at the State House in Boston.

Massachusetts State House. photo by Emmanuel Huybrechts, on flickr.

Massachusetts State House
(Photo by Emmanuel Huybrechts.)

We feel it went well, and now wait for that committee to make its recommendations. March is the next marker for us, when we’ll see which committee our bill will move on to, or whether we’ll need to resubmit for the next cycle.

We need your support – through sending out good vibes, for starters! – as well as a little financial help to keep us moving forward. Our new goal is $30,000. Anything you can offer is so greatly appreciated!


Help Ensure the Future of Holistic Healthcare in Massachusetts

Did you know that not all natural and alternative therapies are recognized in the state of Massachusetts? Please join Health Freedom Action Massachusetts (HFAM) on Thursday, September 24th at 6pm at Om Namo Center for an evening to raise awareness about complementary and alternative, natural healing therapies in Massachusetts. Come learn about the importance of guaranteeing practitioners the right to practice safely and providing consumers with protection for therapies including Ayurveda, herbalism, yoga therapy, homeopathy, and more.

Every citizen should have the right to access the health care practitioner, treatment, or information source that best suits his or her needs and preferences. HFAM has a draft bill to make this happen, which you can preview here. We need this to get the votes it deserves! This event will help kick off Ayurveda Awareness month, which begins on October 1st.

We look forward to seeing you on September 24th, when you will hear from practitioners and consumers about how alternative therapies have changed their lives. Light snacks will be provided. If you would like to show your commitment to this cause, your contributions to HFAM are greatly welcomed here.


Herbalists Support Health Freedom

Herbalists, both those practicing and teaching at the national scale and those living and working right here in Massachusetts, have spoken out to support Health Freedom. We’re pleased to share a few of their statements!

If you’d like to help us work to pass our Health Freedom bill here in MA, please head over to our crowdfunding campaign and make a donation!

The Health Freedom movement is, in my opinion, the perfect solution to ensuring the right of herbalists to practice, without resorting to licensure or other measures that will (intentionally or not) create a hierarchy amongst herbalists. On a larger scale, establishing health freedom is one of the most important goals we can work towards in regards to protecting our rights to choose how we take responsibility for our health and who we choose to help us explore the many options available to us. It’s an option that doesn’t just serve us, but the communities we serve…

Jim McDonald, Michigan herbalist

 

During the 1990s alternative practitioners in Minnesota were hit by a series of prosecutorial law suits (prosecutions for the practice of medicine without a license) launched by the Board of Medical Practice and the State Attorney General’s office.  The first two cases, brought against a dairy farmer selling colostrum milk in rural Minnesota, ended in hung juries.  The third case was brought against a highly qualified and high profile practitioner in the state, a naturopathic doctor licensed in Washington and a graduate of a four year naturopathic medical school.  Public reaction against this persecution was so great that a secretary at the governor’s office complained to a caller, “could you please get your people to stop calling, we can’t get any work done.”  Unfortunately for the governor, we didn’t have an organized phone tree – our cause was just that popular!  We organized a lobby group and went to the legislature.  After saving our friend, we went to work to pass a bill that would protect all practitioners.  This resulted both in the passage of legislation protecting the consumer’s right to access alternative medicine and the establishment of a national lobbying organization, National Health Freedom Action.  Since that time, our bill, or variants modeled upon it, have been passed in many states.  The first to follow us was your neighbor, Rhode Island.

Another positive results was that the Board of Nursing in Minnesota passed a law the next session protecting the right of nurses to practice alternative medicine (and use their nursing credentials on their business card and advertising) as long as they could document training in the field to the Board.  They claimed that these methods were historically within the scope of practice of nurses and still belonged to that scope.     

The health freedom act model protects the consumer’s right to access to alternative medicine, and in this way protects the practitioner.  We are not allowed to practice medicine – that is to say, diagnose illness or use prescription drugs or surgery.  Nor can we interfere with biomedical treatment.  What we are allowed to do is practice our own discipline.  We may use non-biomedical evaluation methods and categories.  These would be methods like pulse and tongue evaluation and categories like “yin deficiency,” “tension,” “low immunity,” “sympathetic excess,” etc.  We can also orient our treatment strategies based on the biomedical diagnosis.  We cannot guarantee positive results, though we can describe case histories in the past where alternative treatment has relieved symptoms or removed conditions.  

Such a scope may or may not have protection in various states under judicial decisions, but the need for a good protective law is necessary because, according to our research, the medical practice acts in forty-nine states defined the “practice of medicine” so strictly that a mother giving her child aspirin was practicing medicine without a license.  The Board had the right to charge virtually anyone, but deferred from such acts.    

I was active in the battle to establish the health freedom act fifteen years ago and I am gratified and proud of the result in Minnesota and elsewhere.  I lost an amount of sleep, energy and time over this endeavor that I feel I will never recover.  Something went out from me that I can never get back.  There is a price to pay for freedom.  Therefore I fully support the efforts of people in Massachusetts and elsewhere to establish their basic rights to access to medical practices of their choice.  Hurray for the freedom state and it’s people.    

Matthew Wood
MS (Herbal Medicine)
Registered Herbalist (AHG)

 

As a trained clinical herbalist, I know that if the Health Freedom Act passed in Massachusetts, I would market my services more openly and be able to help more people achieve a healthier lifestyle and feel better in their bodies.  When people feel better, they’re more productive. The ripple effect would be great.

K. Gekas, Deerpath Herbals LLC
Newton, MA

 

I am a holistic herbalist stating my support for the Massachusetts Health Freedom Act.  I believe that we are ultimately the only ones responsible for our own health, and as individuals, it is up to us to make our own healthcare decisions.  Practitioners of alternative therapies are educators. We provide information to our clients, so that they can be as informed as possible about their health. My job is to help people to understand what their options are, so that they can make the right decision for their own bodies. I believe that we all have the right to seek whatever supportive services we think may be helpful, even if the law does not consider these services to be medicine. Furthermore, I believe that holistic practitioners in Massachusetts deserve the legal protection from criminal prosecution that the states of Rhode Island, Minnesota, and California have already seen fit to implement.

Gavin McCarthy, herbalist
Roslindale, MA

 

Additionally, the American Herbalists Guild has released a statement of support for Health Freedom Acts. It reads in part:

The American Herbalists Guild (AHG) is a non-profit, educational, member-based organization founded to represent the goals and voices of herbalists specializing in the medicinal use of plants. The AHG’s primary goal is to promote a high level of professionalism and education in the study and practice of therapeutic herbalism.

The AHG mission states that [emphasis added]:

The American Herbalists Guild promotes clinical herbalism as a viable profession rooted in ethics, competency, diversity, and freedom of practice. The American Herbalists Guild supports access to herbal medicine for all and advocates excellence in herbal education.

Consistent with the spirit and intention of this mission the AHG supports state-level health freedom legislation designed to simultaneously protect the rights of diverse health practitioners while protecting the public through written disclosure and consent requirements. Such legislation has already been passed by several states including Colorado, Minnesota, California, and New Mexico.

Read the full statement!

 

We thank all the herbalists for their support!

If you want to defend the herbalists right to practice, please help us reach our goal!


Call to Action: Help Us Secure Legislative Co-Sponsors!

As you know, the Health Freedom Action Massachusetts (“HFAM”) coalition is working hard to secure greater protections for practitioners providing alternative health services in Massachusetts. HFAM has secured Representative William “Smitty” Pignatelli and Senator Sal DiDomenico to file “An Act providing for consumer access to and disclosure of complementary and alternative health services” (House Docket 1747 and Senate Docket 634). This “Health Freedom” bill, which is a first-time filing in Massachusetts, would establish notice and disclosure requirements that serve to protect consumers, but also preserve the alternative health practitioner’s role in the health care system.

In particular, this legislation recognizes the ability of an individual to provide complementary and alternative health services. The legislation also requires that practitioners make thorough disclosures to the client before he or she receives services. The notice would provide the client with a description of the services to be provided as well as relevant degrees, training, experience, credentials and any other qualifications held or obtained by the practitioner. The legislation clarifies that certain acts are prohibited by a practitioner of complementary and alternative health services (e.g. prescribing prescription drugs, using anesthesia, etc). Finally, the legislation ties any violation of the notice and disclosure requirements to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A, the consumer protection act.

HFAM needs your help to secure additional co-sponsors for the Health Freedom bill. The more sponsors we have on this legislation, the greater our chance for success. To that end, please take action in the manner described below. January 30th is the deadline for co-sponsoring legislation; make your calls now!

ACTION STEPS TO SECURE CO-SPONSORS:

ACTION #1. Find out who your legislators are (both House and Senate). Go to www.wheredoivotema.com and enter your home address. Click on your state Representative and state Senator’s names and you will be redirected to the Massachusetts legislature’s website where you will see the State House office phone number and email contact information.

ACTION #2. Call your Senator and Representative. January 30th is the deadline to secure co-sponsors for legislation – do not wait to make the call!

Sample Dialogue:

My name is [NAME] and I am a voter in your district.

I am calling on behalf of Health Freedom Action Massachusetts, which is a coalition of alternative health practitioners who are working to establish high standards in providing complementary and alternative health services.

In particular, the Health Freedom bill, sponsored by Representative Pignatelli (House Docket 1747) and Senator DiDomenico (Senate Docket 634) will preserve the role of alternative and complementary services in our health care system. Further, the legislation will improve consumer protections by creating notice and disclosure requirements that are necessary to ensure that consumers have the information necessary to make informed decisions about the services they receive. Finally, the legislation will not cost the Commonwealth any money.

I ask that the Senator/Representative support the Health Freedom Bill and co-sponsor House Docket 1747 and Senate Docket 634 as soon as possible. Will he/she sign on as co-sponsor?

Again, my name is [NAME] and I can be reached at [TELEPHONE NUMBER] if the Representative/Senator has any questions. Thank you for your support of our efforts to preserve informed health care decision making in Massachusetts.

ACTION #3. Follow your call up with an email. Let HFAM know the results of your call!


Banyan Botanicals Supports Health Freedom

Banyan Botanicals, a major international provider of Ayurvedic products and herbs, has made a generous donation to support the work of Health Freedom Action Massachusetts.

Banyan Botanicals

Banyan included this statement of support with their donation:

Banyan Botanicals deeply appreciates and supports the work that HFAMA is doing to ensure that the citizens of Massachusetts have the freedom to choose and access the healing modalities of their choice. Making certain that practitioners of Ayurveda and other alternative and complementary systems of medicine have the right to practice legally is an important component of creating a health care system that is truly healthy.

We thank them for their generosity and their vote of confidence!


2014 U.S. Health Freedom Congress

The National Health Freedom Coalition hosted the 2014 U.S. Health Freedom Congress on September 26 and 27. Click through for the event wrap-up from NHFC, including the program and resolutions passed at this session.

2014 U.S. Health Freedom Congress

2014 U.S. Health Freedom Congress