National Guard free clinics in Kentucky simulate emergency medical response

Senior Airman Raymond Martinez, from the Puerto Rico Air National Guard’s 156th Airlift Wing, translates Spanish for a U.S. Navy dental hygienist at Paducah Tilghman High School in Paducah, Ky., July 26, 2016, during Bluegrass Medical Innovative Readiness Training. The Kentucky Air National Guard, U.S. Navy Reserve and other military units are again offering medical and dental care at no cost to residents in Kentucky as part of a training event.


By EVAN HEICHELBECH | Lexington Herald-Leader | Published: June 14, 2018

(Tribune News Service) — A 10-day program beginning Friday is bringing free health care to Eastern Kentucky.

"Operation Bobcat" will see the deployment of the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123 Medical Group to four sites in the region.

The Guard members will be joined by active-duty U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy Reserve and active-duty U.S. Navy members. Operation Bobcat will have a staff of 215 members and will offer medical screenings; non-emergency medical treatments; sports physicals; dental exams, cleanings, fillings and extractions; optical exams and single-prescription eyeglasses.

The four clinics will run from June 15-24 at Lee County High School in Beattyville, Owsley County High School in Booneville, Estill County High School in Irvine and Breathitt County High School in Jackson. Clinic hours will be 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday.

Anyone age 2 and above is eligible for the care, regardless of place of residence. Insurance cards and ID's are not required and care will be dispensed on a first-come first-serve basis.

The Kentucky Department for Local Government is co-sponsoring the program and will also host a resource center that will offer information on wellness, nutrition and immunizations.

The program is designed to simulate how military medical responses are conducted in times of crisis, conflict or disaster, according to a news release from the National Guard.

“This kind of training helps hone our expeditionary skills so we’re ready to deploy at a moment’s notice to provide care anywhere in the world,” Lt. Col. Amy Mundell, a medical administrative officer in the Guard’s 123rd Medical Group, said in the news release.

Sandra K. Dunahoo, commissioner of the Department for Local Government, noted the value of the program for both the military and for the community. “We’re very pleased to support a program that gives our military health-care troops essential training in field operations and logistics, keeping their skills sharp so they can be prepared to respond wherever they’re needed,” she said in the release. “At the same time, the program will be providing crucial services to citizens of the Commonwealth who may not have ready access to care. This is a win for everyone.”

The Guard says it’s the first clinic of its type to be held in Eastern Kentucky. A similar 2016 initiative in Western Kentucky provided more than 13,000 medical, dental and optometry procedures. More than 1,500 pairs of prescription eyeglasses and $20,000 worth of medications were provided free of charge and the initiative had an economic impact of $1.5 million, according to the release.

©2018 the Lexington Herald-Leader (Lexington, Ky.)
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U.S. Navy Lt. Christopher Luft, an optometrist at Branch Health Clinic, Navy Station Norfolk, and U.S. Navy Cmdr. Fred Kelley, a optometrist with Operational Health Support Unit Portsmouth, Detachment M, set up optometry equipment at Paducah Tilghman High School in Paducah, Ky., July 17, 2016. The National Guard, along with other active duty and reserve military units, are again offering free healthcare to residents of Kentucky as part of a training exercise. The clinics with run at four locations from June 15 to 24.

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