SCNM's WAHI Clinic Offers Addiction Recovery for Underserved Populations

SCNM’s WAHI Clinic Offers Addiction Recovery for Underserved Populations Drug and alcohol addiction continues to plague both youth and adults in the United States. According to a national survey results, approximately 21.5 million people (12 years or older) suffered from a substance use disorder (SUD) between 2013 and 2014. 

Fortunately, treatment facilities such as the World Addiction and Health Institute (WAHI) in central Phoenix offer the care these populations desperately need.

Dr. David Arneson, NMD, staff physician at WAHI, worked with the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine (SCNM) to open the addiction recovery center in 2007. WAHI, one of eight community clinics funded by SCNM’s Sage Foundation, offers free substance-abuse treatment to the local population, while also giving medical students valuable experience in the field of naturopathic medicine.

Most WAHI patients seen by Dr. Arneson suffer from multiple ailments, often related to addiction, and their ages range from just six years old to more than 90 years old. On average, Dr. Arneson and his medical students on shift see anywhere from eight to 22 patients in a four-hour block.

“It can be quite hectic sometimes, but all [patients] will be seen,” Dr. Arneson said. “… We see this as our opportunity to educate patients, and the students understand this to be an important part of what they are here for.”

One patient, a 38-year-old woman who had been in foster care since age six, came to Dr. Arneson after being referred by a counselor. The woman’s father had abandoned the family and her mother died from a heroin overdose. By age 17, she was working as an exotic dancer and using drugs and alcohol daily.

The woman began treatment under Dr. Arneson’s guidance, and within two years, she actually started working for Dr. Arneson in his clinic. She also decided to go to college for social work, and today, she works as an adjunct staff member at Arizona State University and also in a private clinic with women who suffer from addiction and trauma. 

This patient’s testimony serves as an example of the growth and restoration experienced at community clinics regularly. Through the work of the clinics’ doctors and students, more patients are discovering the incredible effects of naturopathic medicine and the many advantages it offers them. 

“I’ve always looked at the community-based clinics as an opportunity to be of service to those less fortunate,” Dr. Arneson said. “The reward for this is not just in the growth of naturopathic medicine, but in the peace one finds [when] being of service to others.” 

The need for these clinics reaches even further than the patient population. Medical students gain valuable experience by working on shifts, which helps them to reach maturation as doctors. In fact, clinic experience has developed students into “some of the best doctors I have had the pleasure to teach and work with,” Dr. Arneson added.

Learn more about the WAHI's benefits to both patients and students and click here to help support the clinic through SCNM’s Sage Foundation!