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Proposal for a New Holistic Community Clinic

Updated: Mar 26, 2019

Editor's Message: Built in 1931, the Historic Seattle Fire Station #6 situated on 23rd Ave S was too small to accommodate the needs of today's Seattle Central District. A new station was erected and the Historic Station was decommissioned in 2013. The historic building, designated as a landmark in 2005, is now awaiting its fate.

Dr. John Ruhland, a local naturopathic doctor, has a grand vision of turning the historic fire station into a holistic community clinic to benefit the low income public. The following is a press release outlining his proposal and an interview that details his vision. You can also find information about how you can help to bring this vision to life. After all, shouldn't holistic care be accessible to all?


Governor Jay Inslee raised a hopeful agenda in his inaugural address, which included improving health care for the state’s population. An exciting proposed project, planned for the Central District of Seattle, could fit into that vision of health improvement.

Dr. John Ruhland, and a large community of health professionals and Central District residents, have proposed that a Holistic clinic be established in the recently decommissioned Fire Station #6.

The intention is to provide a low-to-no-cost clinic, offering health education, acupuncture, massage, chelation, hyperbaric oxygen treatments, and other therapies.

The placement of this clinic in a low-income sector is deliberate. This population usually does not have access to non-invasive, holistic treatments. Hyperbaric therapy, for instance, is very effective for improving stroke, brain injuries, and post traumatic stress disorder. Chelation is the treatment of choice for eliminating heavy metals, which is responsible for a host of illnesses.

While this is a local project, it could become a model for other natural therapy clinics around the state.

More information about the Fire Station Holistic Community Clinic:

City of Seattle officials still need to be persuaded they should offer the fire station for use as a community clinic. Here is a support petition:


Dr. John, why start a holistic clinic for low income?

Dr. John:

The genesis of the idea is inside every one of us. If we truly listen to our hearts, we know that every time we ignore someone in need, we lose a bit of our own humanity.

I see severely injured people in my practice because I offer Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy. For every person I am able to help, there are many with similar injuries who do not seek treatment because they do not have money nor coverage for holistic treatments. It is painful to me that, usually, only people with money have access to holistic health services.

These are not luxury goods, they are basic holistic healthcare! The United States is still the only industrialized nation that does not have universal health care, preventing access to health care because of financial reasons.

Those of us making this proposal have the conviction that all people have the same basic needs and that all people should have their basic needs met.

Why Fire Station #6 in the Central District?

Dr. John:

Since starting my clinic in 1998, for many years, I was the only Naturopathic physician practicing in the South End. It is still the most underserved area in Seattle. Our team is committed to the Central Area and South End.

There is perhaps no other building in the entire Central District that is loved as much as Fire Station #6. It is perfect in every way: location, size and style of building, proximity to other clinics with whom we can collaborate, and proximity to other important community organizations that provide connection and support, and businesses.

We would have the opportunity of maintaining an historical building, with no changes to the exterior, and minimal changes to the interior for the benefit of the community and the City of Seattle.

Even the room where the firetrucks were housed is an ideal space for a treatment room that will incorporate Hyperbaric Oxygen chambers and the large, comfortable, recliner chairs used by those undertaking intravenous therapies. The only thing that the building does not have is a fire-pole.

How far has the project progressed?

Dr. John:

We are awaiting a decision by the City regarding what they plan to do with the Fire Station #6 building, now that the firefighters are housed in a brand new building.

We have architectural drawings for renovating the interior into a holistic community clinic, as well as a number of medical practitioners who have expressed interest in joining us. We have come this far because of the amazing outpouring of interest and support we immediately found for this project.

Our architect estimates it will take about three months and more than $200,000 to renovate. We are hoping to work with contractors from the South End who are invested in the community and who additionally are willing to train under- or unemployed local residents interested in learning a trade, and with whom we can negotiate an affordable rate.

How would the clinic operation function?

Dr. John:

All new patients who come to the clinic for the first time will have a free, first Naturopathic office visit.

Our current plans are that those who qualify for WIC, an EBT card or Medicaid will continue to have free Naturopathic visits as long as they remain eligible for those programs. We may develop additional qualifying criteria, as we gain experience and learn the needs within the community.

Those who do not qualify for free services, after their initial free visit, will have access to sliding scale rates for care with all practitioners, including acupuncture, massage, chiropractic, and more.

Seattle firefighters will have free visits. Veterans and people with post traumatic stress and head injuries will have easy access to no- or low-cost Hyperbaric Oxygen and other oxidative therapies.

The lower our overhead costs, the lower the prices for services, and the more free services there will be. The biggest portion of our overhead will be building costs, which include the initial cost of the building, renovations, maintenance, utilities, insurance, etc.

We are asking community partners, and anyone interested in helping us, to make a monetary donation. The key to our plan is to keep overhead expenses low.

Who is involved in helping the clinic get started?

Dr. John:

We hope our biggest partner will by the City of Seattle, depending on the terms we negotiate regarding the Fire Station #6 building. That is what makes this a public/private partnership. The clinic will have a non-profit status in order to allow for this partnership, as well as to allow us to be eligible for grants.

We are fortunate to have a wide interest in the clinic proposal. There appeared to have been genuine interest in Mayor McGinn’s Office as well as from several City Council members.

There is a growing coalition of community groups and individuals who support our work which includes community leaders from Catholic Community Services, Monica Village, NAACP, Washington CAN, Church Council of Greater Seattle, One America, Faith Action Network, Puget Sound Sage, Northwest Harvest, AFSC, People's Institute NW, UFCW Local 21, National Lawyers Guild - Seattle Chapter, Odessa Brown Children's Clinic, Cannon House, a number of pastors and churches in the CD and Southend, as well as King County Councilmember District 2 Larry Gossett, State Senator Bob Hasegawa (D) 11th Legislative District, Asst. Dean of UW Law School Michele Storms, MLK Committee organizer KL Shannon, author Aaron Dixon (“My People are Rising: Memoir of a Black Panther Party Captain”), founder of “One America” Pramila Jayapal, and senior pastor of Bethany United Church of Christ The Reverend Angela Ying.

Are there other clinics based on a community model?

Dr. John:

When I was a Naturopathic student at Bastyr, I participated in three off-campus holistic clinics. One for homeless people in Pioneer Square, one for homeless youth at the 45th Street Clinic in Wallingford, and one at the Norse Retirement Home. Each program was run by a faculty member, and patients were seen by pairs of clinicians.

There are now about a dozen such sites, some with larger numbers of students. While they are not free, and only open half-a-day per week, they are low cost and help to further the education of Naturopathic students.

The Kent-based holistic health clinic, called the King County Natural Medicine Clinic, was the first publicly funded natural medicine primary care clinic in the United States. Fully funded by Federal, State and County resources, our beloved King County Councilmember Larry Gossett facilitated the creation of that Clinic, which was begun by many in the health community, including activists like Merrily Manthey, Bastyr University and other organizations. It is very popular. As a pilot program, it ran from October 1996 to June 1998.

A free clinic founded in 1967 in Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco is considered the model for the modern free clinic.

The Seattle chapter of the Black Panthers, co-founded by Aaron Dixon, made access to healthcare and food a top priority. They started a free clinic in the Central District.

How will the clinic be funded?

Dr. John:

Money to cover our overhead expenses will come from fees from existing patients, who will continue to pay for services as they have in the past. That will be enough to fund the ongoing expenses of the clinic.

The reason this project is worth funding is the possibility that others will start up more free clinics. We hope that some of those who work at our clinic will take what they learned and apply it elsewhere. It is exciting thinking of what lies ahead.

Dr. Ruhland earned his doctorate degree in Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in 1998. He has been in practice since then. He contributed to several books on natural medicine, including the Textbook of Natural Medicine.

Demian is a movie maker and photographer, has a doctorate in education, and has been a whole foods vegan since 1971. 206-935-1206


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