In legislative testimony, she says the board wants to take away a treatment she needs
The joint legislative panel charged with oversight of the state’s administrative bodies on Tuesday tabled discussions on a draft bill that would dissolve 15 licensing boards in the state and consolidate 10 more into other licensing bodies.
While nearly all of the comments from the public were from people affiliated with the licensing boards or in the professions themselves arguing for preservation of their boards, one commenter from the public spoke in favor of dissolving the Acupuncture Licensing Board.
Jan Burkhard is a principal dancer with the Carolina Ballet, and is a recipient of dry needling therapy from her physical therapist, which she says the Acupuncture Licensing Board is trying to stop.
“My husband and I live in Raleigh and we are expecting our first child. Our baby girl is due on Aug. 5,” she said. “(Sen. Andy Wells (R-Alexander)) asked if I would be willing to come speak with you today. At first I wasn’t sure I could talk to a room full of strangers about my health issues, but I ultimately agreed because I feel strongly that this committee has a right to know what the acupuncture board is trying to do to patients like me.
“The truth is that there are thousands of patients like me who need a certain kind of health care treatment and our access to that treatment is under attack.”
Burkhard said that her training and performances are extremely demanding physically and that without sufficient treatment she takes longer to recover from the stress and rigors of her physical training.
“All of this can cause serious health issues, but we are fortunate to have effective health care treatment … that treatment is called dry needling,” she said. “Dry needling is a type of physical therapy where needles are inserted into bands in muscles to relieve pain or other problems. On a regular basis I received dry needling treatments from Dr. Elizabeth Henry, a physical therapist affiliated with the Carolina Ballet.”
Burkhard said that the relief she gets from dry needling is different than that of other treatments she has undergone, including acupuncture, but that her care is under attack.
“Unfortunately, a few years ago Dr. Henry received a cease-and-desist letter from the acupuncture board,” she said. “The cease-and-desist letter ordered her to stop providing dry needling treatments to patients like me. When Dr. Henry refused to stop treating patients like me who need dry needling, the acupuncture board filed a lawsuit against her. I’m told that lawsuit is ongoing.
“The acupuncturists on the acupuncture board say that instead of getting dry needling, patients like me should get acupuncture. Acupuncture is completely different from the dry needling I get from Dr. Henry. I ought to know, I’ve had acupuncture in the past. I’ve sought out both treatments for different reasons. I’m concerned that the acupuncture board is going to eliminate my access and my choice to the type of health care treatment that I desperately need.”
Burkhard said that she as shocked that the board would go after her chosen type of care.
“As a patient, I thought the law gave me the rights to make those decisions for myself,” she said. “As I’m sure you do, I care deeply about being able to have access to the health care I need. I care about it so much that I am willing to do whatever it takes to be sure that I can continue to get dry needling. Unfortunately when the acupuncture board wouldn’t stop its attacks I was forced to file a lawsuit asking the courts to stop the acupuncture board from trying to block our access to care.”
Burkhard was joined in the lawsuit by fellow dancer at the ballet, Lindsay Purrington.
“She has the same concerns I do. That lawsuit is ongoing right now, which is why, as I’m sure you can understand, I can’t answer questions but I wanted to accept Sen. Wells’ invitation to come here today so that the committee could know what the acupuncture board is doing,” Burkhard said. “All of this is why patients like me are pleased to learn that the legislature is considering whether to do away with the acupuncture board. Given what thousands of patients like me are going through right now with the acupuncture board, I strongly support this bill.”
Boy defends board
The only other commenter from the public not affiliated with any of the professions was Colson Combs, a 13-year-old boy living in Raleigh.
Combs told the committee his acupuncturist is to thank for his not being on medication today.
“Thank you for the opportunity to tell you why I think acupuncturists should be licensed,” he said. “Fifty-four percent of America’s children have been diagnosed with a chronic health condition; that’s over 40 million U.S. children who are suffering. Former U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona said that my generation may be the first that is less healthy and has a shorter life expectancy than their parents.
“Over 70 percent of Americans are sick and medicated. My acupuncturist helped me avoid medication and surgery. My first major health issue was environmental allergies. My entire life I could barely breath through my nose. When I was five-years-old I was running through a field of tall grass and my face and neck swelled to almost twice their size. My family took me to an acupuncturist and he said I needed to change the way I eat. My mom and dad changed their diets with me and I never again experienced another episode. I could breathe through my nose for the first time in my life. Thanks to my acupuncturist, I avoided medicine.”
He also said that his acupuncturist gave his parents advice, referring him to a physical therapist to adjust the way he used his legs to develop them correctly as he grew instead of undergoing surgery.
“With their help, with some chiropractic care my legs are straight.” He said. “My acupuncturist has also helped my parents, my dad no longer has ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) and has stopped his medication. He helped my mom recover from debilitating exhaustion caused by working too much after I was born. My parents are almost 50 years old and they don’t need medication. We need our acupuncturists to be able to fully practice in North Carolina, and they must be licensed.”
Consolidation planned for five boards
The legislation has been making waves since it was introduced into the Occupational Licensing Board Oversight subcommittee of the Joint Legislative Administrative Procedure Oversight Committee last month.
Under the legislation, the boards currently licensing electrologists and laser hair practitioners, fee-based practicing pastoral counselors, interpreters and transliterators, irrigation contractors, recreational therapists and recreational therapy assistants, acupuncturists, athletic trainers, foresters, locksmiths, podiatrists, alarm systems businesses, continuing education for fire and casualty insurance licensees and life and health insurance licensees, employee assistance professionals, perfusionists and also public librarians would be marked for dissolution May 1, 2017.
The move is being floated with the intention of de-regulating the state to remove barriers to entry for newcomers to the affected occupations.
Defenders of the boards say they are needed to protect North Carolinians from fraud and safety and health problems.
Those supporting the dissolution say that national certification is sufficient to protect consumers who are choosing which proprietors to utilize, such as the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, which certifies the competency of acupuncturists.
The draft bill also calls for the consolidation of five different boards into the purview of existing boards.
Under the legislation, the committee charged with licensing midwives would come under the state board over nursing, the Respiratory Care Board would fall under the state medical board, the marriage and family therapy as well as substance abuse boards would go under the North Carolina Board of Licensed Professional Counselors, and the pilotage commissions over the Cape Fear River and Morehead City areas.