Health and Fitness

How can you manage diabetes, addiction and pain without drugs?

Integrative health, help for low-income clients part of Taos clinic, new nonprofit

By Cindy Brown
For The Taos News
Posted 11/15/18

Caring for the whole person is the mission of Taos Whole Health Integrative Care. The healthcare practice was founded in April 2017 to help identify and correct …

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Health and Fitness

How can you manage diabetes, addiction and pain without drugs?

Integrative health, help for low-income clients part of Taos clinic, new nonprofit


Caring for the whole person is the mission of Taos Whole Health Integrative Care. The healthcare practice was founded in April 2017 to help identify and correct imbalances in the mind and body, so that people can achieve their optimal strength and health.

Focusing on mind-body connection, Taos Whole Health offers a broad range of integrative health services many of which draw on ancient wisdom from China, India and Native traditions. Although the roots are ancient, integrative medicine has developed into an advanced science through its use of functional testing and genetic coding. Integrative medicine is particularly effective at addressing long-term chronic conditions, such as long-term pain, inflammation and food sensitivities.

The practice was founded by Dr. Lilly-Marie Blecher, a naturopathic doctor and Doctor of Oriental Medicine and Dr. Joanna J. Hooper, a board-certified family practitioner, to offer patients healthcare that is collaborative and holistic. One of the naturopathic doctors on the staff, Dr. Rasa Lila says “We look at the whole terrain of the individual patient to see what susceptibility might be, rather than just looking at a specific diagnosis. We look at why are you susceptible in the first place so that we can really get at the root and have better results from treatment. We can draw on the ancient to the most modern medicine, including the Western doctor’s expertise and the Eastern approaches of acupuncture, Chinese medicine, Ayurveda, homeopathy, as well as massage therapy and nutrition, exercise and yoga.”

There are currently 13 practitioners working across this wide range of healing practices in the offices on Gusdorf Road.

New nonprofit: Taos Whole Community Health

At the same time the practice was founded, a nonprofit organization was established: Taos Whole Community Health. The business model for the original practice also created the framework for serving low-income patients through the new nonprofit. Six months ago, Taos Whole Community Health was launched with a $50,000 grant from Taos County to help fund one year of service. The intent is to bring holistic health services to people of low income for free or at affordable rates.

Blecher worked for 12 years at a public health practice in Portland, Oregon, that was sustained by the director who contributed his own money to help pay for services to low-income people. “I wanted to figure out a model that was sustainable without someone having to contribute their personal wealth,” says Blecher. “We want to serve everyone in Taos. We recognize that there is a great need. We are blessed to have received the grant from Taos County.”

The nonprofit is serving the people of Taos County who live below the federal poverty line and cannot afford regular integrative medical care.

When applying for the Taos County grant funds, the grant application authors said, “Integrative medicine is innovative, scientifically proven and effective to address pain, addiction, diabetes and many more of the common health concerns of the low to no income members of our community. It is also the area of medicine that is least funded by Medicare and Medicaid and is therefore out of reach for most people living below the poverty line, who could potentially benefit the most.”

Naturopathic doctor Dr. Lila is also the director of the new nonprofit. She says that the patients they are seeing at the new organization often suffering from complex conditions brought on by traumas such as sexual assault and domestic violence. “People are dealing with multiple traumas not just physical health problems. It is layers of issues. Behavioral therapy alone is not sufficient to deal with the chronic pain that they are experiencing in their body. But the typical pain medications are also not sufficient to get to the root of the pain. Having a comprehensive approach to deal with the mind and body connection is really allowing these patients to shift and rebuilding their capacity to heal. Their bodies are actually able to heal themselves.”

A focus of Taos Whole Community Health is pain management, addiction and the opiate epidemic. With an estimated 30 percent of United States adults affected by chronic or severe pain, many people seek medical remedies, such as drugs, to manage their pain. Western approaches alone may not be enough to adequately address pain, while the abuse and overuse of medication can lead to addiction. There is increasing evidence that therapies “such as acupuncture, massage, yoga and mindfulness-based stress reduction can decrease pain intensity, improve function and promote better coping with chronic pain,” said the nonprofit staff drawing on information from the American Pain Society. The staff points out that Taos County residents experience high rates of chronic pain and opiate addiction.

Another focus of the clinic is to address diabetes, which is the sixth leading cause of death for New Mexicans. “At Taos Whole Community Health, we combine primary care, nutrition, and lifestyle coaching, acupuncture and education to empower patients to make the changes necessary to improve their health and quality of life,” according to information from the nonprofit.

So far, the organization has served 10 patients and hopes to be able to serve more. With their current funding, they can see about 30 patients. With additional funding, they have capacity for about 144 patients annually with the current practitioners and space at their clinic. They are beginning to coordinate their efforts so that they can receive referrals from Taos County, H.E.A.R.T, the Taos Men’s Shelter, Rio Grande Alcoholism Treatment Program, El Centro Family Health and other organizations.

Community self-care workshop and fundraiser

To help them serve more people, Taos Whole Community Health is hosting a fundraiser and self-care workshop on Sunday, (Dec. 9) at the Taos Center for the Arts. The new nonprofit will be introduced and participants can also get information about self-care.

Featured speaker will be Dr. James S. Gordon, executive director of the Center for Mind Body Medicine and author of many books, including “Unstuck: Your Guide to the Seven-Stage Journey out of Depression.” He will lead participants in guided meditations, breathing techniques and movement. “This is a unique opportunity to see Gordon,” says Blecher. “He was the chairman of the White House Commission on Alternative and Complementary Medicine under President Clinton. His center works in Gaza, Israel, Puerto Rico, Haiti and in many communities that have experienced school shootings to heal severe trauma. He is interested in introducing this program to Taos County to train local leaders and supporting them in running groups and programs.”

At the event, the practitioners hope to engage the community in a dialogue about what the community needs to heal and how they can provide those services. There will be a silent auction for works of art and gift certificates, along with a raffle, music and food.

“We believe that the community as a whole benefits when every member is healthy and well,” says Blecher. “We want all of our community members to be able to fulfill their greatest potential and we want to be the resource that helps people achieve that goal. We know we have a more productive, safer and happier place to live when people are well.”

For more information:

Donations for the new nonprofit can be accepted at Call (575) 776-7806 or email to find out more.


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