Business

'Holistic health network' looking for location in Cedar Rapids' MedQuarter

The Wellness Center connects clients to affordable services in city

Kim Vaicunas places a blanket over a student in a restorative yoga class geared toward veterans at Vella Yoga in Marion on Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019. Veterans at Ease is offered through the Wellness Center, a nonprofit that is seeking a permanent location. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Kim Vaicunas places a blanket over a student in a restorative yoga class geared toward veterans at Vella Yoga in Marion on Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019. Veterans at Ease is offered through the Wellness Center, a nonprofit that is seeking a permanent location. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Jon Hufford has suffered from chronic pain for most of his adult life.

He used muscle relaxants and narcotic pain relievers for 20 years before he finally reached a place where he felt that medication was no longer helpful.

That’s when he learned about pain management — a series of exercises and stretches that help people deal with their pain.

Hufford attended a three-week class at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., last year. When he returned to Cedar Rapids, he was looking for a clinic to continue practicing the technique.

That’s when he learned about the Wellness Center — a collaborative care program that seeks to fill the gaps in health care by providing pain management clinics, acupuncture, chiropractic, physical therapy, massage, nutrition coaching and mental health counseling, among other sessions.

The Wellness Center is a good alternative for underinsured, uninsured and those who can’t afford to take time off work, Hufford said.

While the center has existed in clinics, physical therapy offices, mental health centers and other locations since it received not-for-profit status in May 2017, now it is looking for a place to call home.

Seeking a location in medical district

Jess High, who sits on its board of directors, said the center is working to find a location in the MedQuarter District in downtown Cedar Rapids by the end of this year.

The goal is to be in the heart of the medical district to be close to where clients are already going to see providers, she said.

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Amber Henline, the center’s founder, imagines a space where they can host workshops and offer free clinics as well as where clients can see providers.

While the center won’t employ its own providers, Henline hopes providers would be open to leasing space there, which would help the center cover overhead costs.

Several massage therapists the Wellness Center works with have expressed interest in relocating to a central location, Henline said.

Creating a holistic health network

The center is building a “holistic health network,” connecting clients to 15 providers who work in chiropractic, physical therapy, acupuncture, herbal medicine, mental health counseling, massage therapy and life coaching, said Henline, who is a licensed massage therapist.

Henline said that while she is now a “health conscious person,” that hasn’t always been the case.

“I went from being an overweight, stay-at-home mom to educating myself on how to better take care of myself, becoming a professional body builder and wanting to help other people feel better,” she said.

Launching its own wellness programs

In addition to helping connect clients to medical care providers, the Wellness Center offers a few programs of its own.

The first Sunday of each month, Kim Vaicunas leads a free class called Veterans at Ease at Vella Yoga in Marion, a yoga program for veterans. It is designed to bring body awareness to participants to help them address post-traumatic stress disorder, Henline said.

“It helps them clear their mind, brings them back to a safe mental space and helps with sleep quality,” Henline said. “It’s a lot of guided meditation.”

The pain management clinic meets every week at Covenant Family Solutions.

The center also hosts free WELLtalks at the Cedar Rapids Public Library once a month, bringing in a professional to talk about anything from physical, mental or spiritual health to finances.

Ensuring Affordable Access to Care

The Wellness Center also has an income-based program to help people who otherwise may not be able to afford services.

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Jenn Mason was able to access mental health counseling and physical therapy. She also qualified for financial assistance, and the center covered up to $800 of her health care costs.

“Whatever insurance doesn’t cover, the Wellness Center takes over,” she said.

For more information about the Wellness Center, visit cr-wellness.org.

Comments: (319) 368-8664; grace.king@thegazette.com

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