Crossroads Acupuncture | Growing the Barefoot Acupuncture Movement -

After trauma, strong emotions can remain that sometimes express as a physical pain continually carried by a survivor. For many, relief can be found in acupuncture. Ryan Bemis at Crossroads Acupuncture in Las Cruces works with those who experience pain, trauma, and depression. However, his larger mission is to use acupuncture to address trauma worldwide through grassroots training of community healers as part of the Barefoot Acupuncture Movement (BAM).

Crossroads Acupuncture is a nonprofit organization that aims to serve community members, regardless of income level, and allow everyone to experience the relief that acupuncture can bring. According to the Mayo Clinic, acupuncture is a form of alternative medicine and a component of traditional Chinese medicine. During treatment, thin, sterile, disposable needles are inserted into the body at strategic points. In 1996, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classified the needles as medical devices.

Western practitioners use acupuncture points to stimulate nerves, muscles, and connective tissue, along with improving overall wellness, including stress management. In traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture is thought to balance the flow of energy or life force, known as chi, which is believed to flow through the pathways of a body. Acupuncture practitioners believe that energy flows will re-balance by inserting needles into specific points.

Ryan, who is co-founder and executive director of Crossroads Acupuncture, is both a teacher and acupuncturist for the organization. He explained that the acupuncture points they primarily use at Crossroads Acupuncture are located from the elbows and knees down and on the ears and head. “We can use these points to treat issues throughout the whole body, even the back,” he said. He explained that he treats pain, stress, anxiety, depression, migraines, and even allergies.

“The needles are so tiny that they’re more like eyelashes or cat whiskers than needles, just a half-inch long,” Ryan said. “Many people fall asleep during the 45-minute session.”

Located inside Families and Youth, Inc. (FYI), Crossroads Acupuncture also trains health providers in cost-effective techniques and helps underserved groups establish and sustain their own community-supported health projects.
“Our clinic is the center for our entire social entrepreneurship,” Ryan said. “When you come in for acupuncture here at our clinic, you’re getting help for yourself, and you’re helping us help other community health workers who are on the front lines in their own underserved communities.”

That’s where the Barefoot Acupuncture Movement comes in. BAM is a nonprofit project under the umbrella of Crossroads Acupuncture and a hub for training community healers after disasters or civil unrest. BAM stems from the Barefoot Doctor movement that offered care for millions of people in rural and underserved areas in Asia starting in the 1950s. The World Health Organization adopted this model and started similar community health training projects.

“Our project offers Barefoot Clinics for trauma survivors and seeks to train local personnel how to set up clinics on their own as part of disaster response,” Ryan said. “We train frontline and community health workers in how to apply trauma-informed, culturally competent, and evidence-informed acupuncture techniques as a complement to behavioral health, first response trauma teams, primary care, and as a general support for wellness.”

He explained that access to healthcare is limited in the aftermath of disaster or war, and reliance on outside aid may prove vital for the short term. “But we want to put healing into the hands of those who are leaders in the community and teach a simple step-by-step curriculum to address pain, mental health, addictions, and support for chronic illness,” he said. “Community leaders learn how to offer mobile outreach clinics within local shelters, refugee camps, and community centers.”

During his 2018 commencement address at the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine, where Ryan received his training, he explained his vision that originated when he sought out mentors in Central America and Africa. “They encouraged me to focus on sustainability by training the local people,” he said. “So that’s what I did. I stepped out of just being a healer, out of the rescuer role, and handed over the tools to the people.”

Ryan is certified by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine and licensed by New Mexico as a Doctor of Oriental Medicine. As a New Mexico state medical board certified supervisor for behavioral health and harm reduction programs utilizing ear acupuncture, he has provided more than 30,000 treatments working with refugees, veterans, and everyday people of the Borderland.

Born and raised in Wyoming, Ryan originally moved to the Borderland to teach providers how to apply basic acupuncture techniques like the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association Acudetox ear acupuncture protocol. He has trained more than 420 health workers in the border region and Latin America, including providers at University of New Mexico (UNM) Hospitals, Catholic churches, U.S. federally qualified health centers, addictions programs, and Indigenous health programs in the Q’eqchi’, Taos Pueblo, Tarahumara, Acoma, Ysleta del Sur, and Navajo communities.

“Our newest project will be at the Lincoln County Detention Center where we’ll be training their staff and IHS [Indian Health Service] workers on the Mescalero Apache Reservation, through a new grant, in July,” Ryan said. “We have a network of free clinics in the area as we collaborate with local groups like Community of Hope, IHS, FYI, UNM Hospitals, Women’s Intercultural Center, and the Catholic Diocese of Juárez.”

Megan Yarberry, a key collaborator leading BAM’s effort in Africa, has trained both prison and refugee workers, and other health providers in Uganda, Tunisia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. “It’s been an inspiration to watch his [Ryan’s] trajectory as he refines his skills in the area of community empowerment,” she said. “He has a big vision and has been working tirelessly to create a center of gravity around which so much good work can be done.”
For more information on the Barefoot Acupuncture Movement, Crossroads, or to seek training with Ryan Bemis, call 575-312-6569, visit Ryan at 1320 S. Solano Dr., or go to


Written by Cassie McClure

Originally published in Neighbors magazine


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