Members of the B.C. Naturopathic Association present Dr. Amy Gilchrist (far right) with a cheque for the Family Naturopathic Clinic.

Family Naturopathic Clinic eyes expansion

One of Canada's only naturopathic clinics that provides free services to low income families is hoping to expand in the new year.

One of Canada’s only naturopathic clinics that provides free services to low income families is hoping to expand in the new year.

The Family Naturopathic Clinic, located in Vic West, provides free naturopathic health care such as counselling on stress management, nutrition and diet, acupuncture, naturopathic health products, and herbal medicine to young parents and low-income families in Victoria every other Saturday.

During a patient’s first visit to the clinic, adults receive a one-and-a-half hour-visit with doctors, while children receive a one-hour visit. Doctors take a detailed history and do a screening physical exam. Laboratory testing may also be requested, similar to other general practitioner visits. Every subsequent visit is an hour.

It is the only clinic of its kind in Canada.

“People really want a practitioner who is going to take time with them and really spend the time to listen and create a partnership in terms of health. People are interested in using natural therapies with less side effects,” said Amy Gilchrist, director and founder of the clinic.

“People are coming in with really complex issues that you can’t deal with in a five-minute visit.”

Since its inception in 2007, the $25,000 pilot project has taken off, mostly by word of mouth.

Gilchrist sees roughly 15 patients every other week, along with a roughly four-month-long wait list, mostly consisting of young families with parents under the age of 30.

Dr. Kristin Schnurr, who has been working with the clinic since 2007, said they see patients with digestive  issues, sleep, behavioural and basic immune issues, as well as anxiety, depression and allergies.

“I believe naturopathic care is incredible in terms of its ability to get at the underlying cause,” Schnurr said.

“We can help these people to not only feel better, for the short term but also develop lifestyle and dietary habits that mean their life is better overall for the long-term.”

Recently, the clinic partnered with the Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine, a medical school in Vancouver, that sends over three to six students to treat patients under the supervision of licensed naturopathic doctors.

Gilchrist said they were able to triple their services with the partnership, but was quick to add she hopes to make naturopathic health care available to everyone.

“I love being a naturopathic doctor. What I don’t like is that people have to pay for the service. My long-term goal is to make naturopathic care accessible to anyone who wants it. I don’t want cost to be a hindering factor,” she said.

Currently, the clinic receives funding from the Whitewood Foundation in Victoria, the Integrated Health Clinic in Fort Langley, a small portion from Medical Service Plan for certain patients and is run out of the Acacia Integrative Health Clinic on Tyee Road. They also host small fundraisers through the year.

Most recently, the B.C. Naturopathic Association donated money to the clinic as well.

But this year, they’re hoping to raise awareness of the need for free naturopathic services in the community.

“I would like to expand, I would like to be able to treat more people, I’d really like to be able to meet the need better, but what that also means is that we need more funding and more awareness,” Gilchrist said.

For more information visit acaciahealth.ca/yspn_clinic/.