The Venice Family Clinic has received the new Leveraging Excellence, Advancing Practice (LEAP) Award from the California HealthCare Foundation for its chronic pain program at the Simms/Mann Health and Wellness Center.

The California HealthCare Foundation, an independent philanthropy committed to improving the way healthcare is delivered and financed in California, created its LEAP Award to recognize model healthcare practices and innovative ways of meeting the health needs of the state’s underserved populations.

“This is a model that clinics across the state and around the country could adopt,” says Dr. Myles Spar, director of Integrative Medicine at Venice Family Clinic’s Simms/Mann Health and Wellness Center.

The chronic pain program at the Simms/Mann Health and Wellness Center uses acupuncture and chiropractic care, as well as counseling, to help patients manage pain from back injuries, migraines, carpal tunnel syndrome and other conditions.

Chronic pain is especially hard on those with low incomes because many are manual laborers and are unable to work effectively through the pain, a Venice Family Clinic spokesperson said. Free clinics rarely offer treatment for chronic pain, the spokesperson said.

“There’s a six-month wait list for many surgeries at county hospitals, and waiting that long can be agonizing, given that prescription pain-killing drugs are often unaffordable and over-the-counter pain relievers carry serious side effects from long-term use,” Spar says. “Acupuncture and chiropractic, on the other hand, are relatively inexpensive to administer and can provide relief in a matter of weeks.”

The chronic pain program is just one of several activities at Venice Family Clinic’s Simms/ Mann Health and Wellness Center, which is said to be home to the nation’s first health, wellness and integrative medicine program offered at a free clinic.

Venice Family Clinic’s Simms/Mann Health and Wellness Center also features stress management, parenting and nutrition skills training, and family weight management programs, as well as health and wellness promotion, including tools to help patients find no- or low-cost fitness resources in the communities where they live.

“This program takes a larger view of chronic pain by also incorporating prevention,” Spar says. “Practitioners give patients exercise recommendations, nutritional information, and stress reduction tips to help them avoid re-injury.”

Venice Family Clinic’s Simms/Mann Health and Wellness Center was launched in 2006 with funding from the Simms/Mann Family Foundation and features a variety of evidence-based integrated services.

The building is designed to create an environment that supports patient healing, healthy lifestyles and overall wellbeing. It includes a free-standing computer kiosk with health and wellness programming, health education literature, and health promotion television programming in the waiting area.