The new tax bill that was passed on Friday contains a $25 billion cut to Medicare (which will cause cancer patients to lose access to their chemotherapy treatments), and abolishes the individual mandate. It’s going to be a tough time ahead for many, especially for those who make their living in creative fields.
That's where Seattle Musicians Access to Sustainable Healthcare (SMASH) comes in.
SMASH is a non-profit organization that provides musicians with proper health education, advocacy, and health care. And these days, SMASH's efforts to organize resources to help Seattle musicians get appropriate access to healthcare are needed now more than ever.
Co-founder and President of SMASH Ian Moore, who helped create the program about two years ago, says he originally heard about a program in Texas called Health Alliance for Austin Musicians, but nothing came up when he searched for something similar in Seattle. Moore thought it was peculiar—especially because he considers Seattle a world-class music city, but also one that now happens to be an extremely expensive place to live.
“Musicians can't really afford to live here anymore,” Moore said. “We're seeing a lot of people leaving Seattle for other towns… but the people that are sticking it out, you know, it's a struggle. I think most musicians are really struggling to survive.”
SMASH helps area musicians get access to traditional and naturopathic healthcare providers, primary and specialty healthcare services, information to understand Washington state health insurance options, and hearing screenings and hearing loss prevention.
“We wanted to start very grassroots to get it going and build up trust. Musicians are so used to half-baked ideas, scammy things, and weird stuff, especially when it comes to organizations,” Moore said. “Everybody's a little bit paranoid to build the trust up, [but we’re] letting them know that we're not wasting their time, and we're going to provide a service that's going to be helpful and help them live a healthier life.”
SMASH also hopes to advocate for better healthcare on behalf of Seattle musicians, and to do this, the organization was founded by a team of musicians, doctors and lawyers. SMASH's Board of Directors includes Moore, Jacqueline Ryall, Dr. Angila Jaeggli, Joleen McCauley, Steph Fairweather, and Maria Cardenas-Anson, who aim to create an inclusive, community-oriented organization.
Along with Christina Greene, they comprise the SMASH Board of Directors. The Board is responsible for all of the organization’s efforts, including planning events and screening applicants.
Anyone involved with music making that meets SMASH’s entry criteria is eligible to become a member — meaning the definition applies to a lot of different types of professional musicians.
“What's considered a musician is a different definition than it was 20 years ago, so people that professionally make music in one form or the other, whether they're gigging musicians or producers/engineers fit that definition,” Moore explained.
Recently, SMASH partnered with the Hearing, Speech, & Deaf Center (HSDC) and the University of Washington to provide free hearing screenings and consultations, and free custom molded ear plugs for SMASH affiliated-musicians. Moore said that hearing loss is one of the biggest concerns of musicians.
“When you start out, very, very few people wear earplugs and you end up with some pretty serious hearing damage if you're not careful,” Moore said. “So, what we try to do is get people in there, check their hearing, and have a consultation so they have a little more understanding about what it's like and what they can do.”
Moore also explained that traditional medicine is only one aspect of SMASH. In 2018, they will be partnering with Bastyr University in Kenmore to provide naturopathic options for musicians as well as offering more events with both traditional and homeopathic focuses.
“We want to alleviate some of the stress, number one, and make sure that in the stress of trying to survive, musicians are not avoiding taking care of themselves,” Moore said. “What we're hoping to do is keep Seattle healthier…basically give Seattle a big B12 shot.”
Moore said that SMASH is looking to hire full time employees in the future, but it is entirely volunteer ran right now. For those who’d like to get involved, or musicians who'd like to apply to become members, information is available on the SMASH website.