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Kentucky Air National Guard to offer no-cost health care in Eastern Kentucky

Tufts Now

The Kentucky Air National Guard is teaming with the Kentucky Department for Local Government and other branches of the U.S. military to offer health care at no cost to citizens in four Eastern Kentucky counties starting June 15.

Medical screenings, non-emergency medical treatments, sports physicals, dental exams, cleanings, fillings and extractions, optical exams, and single-prescription eyeglasses will all be offered, said Lt. Col. Amy Mundell, a medical administrative officer in the Kentucky Air Guard’s 123rd Medical Group, which is serving as the lead military agency.

Sites offering care will be in Beattyville, Booneville, Irvine and Jackson. All four clinics will be open June 15 to 24, and patients will be seen on a first-come, first-served basis, Mundell said.

Called “Operation Bobcat,” this Innovative Readiness Training program gives military health professionals an opportunity to provide medical, dental and optical care in a field environment, much as they would when responding to a natural disaster or military operation, while offering services to citizens who are uninsured or underinsured.

“This program allows our medical troops to conduct critical training and logistical movements that simulate a military medical response in the time of crisis, conflict or disaster,” explained Mundell, who is the project’s officer-in-charge. “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.

“At the same time, Operation Bobcat will provide direct and lasting benefits to the residents of Eastern Kentucky by delivering expert medical, dental and optical services to residents in need of quality care. We’re extremely pleased to be participating in this outstanding program.”

Operation Bobcat is a joint-service mission comprised of about 215 Airmen and Sailors from the Air National Guard, active-duty U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy Reserve and active-duty U.S. Navy. A similar effort, led by the Kentucky Air National Guard in Western Kentucky in 2016, offered care to more than 4,000 citizens, providing 13,000 medical, dental and optometry procedures with an economic impact of $1.5 million. That team also provided 1,800 pairs of prescription eyeglasses and $20,000 worth of medications free of charge.

This year’s program is co-sponsored by the Kentucky Department for Local Government (DLG), charged by Gov. Matt Bevin to provide assistance to local governments. The agency is working closely with communities and local leadership to host the participating troops and provide logistical and programmatic support, said DLG Commissioner Sandra K. Dunahoo.

“As the U.S. Department of Defense’s community partner, the Kentucky Department for Local Government is working closely with local officials in Lee, Owsley, Breathitt and Estill Counties to help facilitate the project’s success,” Dunahoo said. “During Operation Bobcat, DLG also plans to host a resource center that will offer information on wellness, nutrition and immunizations, among other health topics.

“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,” Dunahoo added. “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 Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Airlift Wing, based in Louisville, is one of the most decorated units in Air Force history.

More than one-quarter of its members have deployed overseas in the past year, including over 100 Airmen who supported relief efforts in the Caribbean following Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. Airmen from the wing’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron controlled 636 military aircraft in the Virgin Islands, facilitating the evacuation of 1,286 U.S. citizens, while Airmen from the wing’s 123rd Contingency Response Group established an Intermediate Staging Base in Puerto Rico that supported 268 aircraft, processed 3887 passengers and distributed more than 7 million pounds of food, water and humanitarian aid.

The clinics will be open June 15-24. Hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday. Locations are 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.

Patients will be accepted on a first-come, first-served walk-in basis. The clinics are open to anyone, ages 2 through adult, regardless of place of residence. No insurance is required, and an ID is not necessary to receive care.

(provided by Kentucky National Guard)

Paul Hitchcock earned his Masters in Communications from Morehead State University and Bachelors in Radio-TV/Psychology from Georgetown College. A veteran broadcaster for more than 40 years and an avid fan of blues, jazz and American roots music. Hitchcock has been with WMKY since 1986 and was named General Manager in 2003. He currently hosts "Muddy Bottom Blues" (Fri., 8pm-9pm), "Nothin' But The Blues" (Sat., 8pm-12am), "Sunday Night Jazz Showcase" and "Live From The Jazz Lounge" (Sun., 8pm-9pm) and "The Golden Age of Radio" (Sun., 2pm-3pm). He also serves as producer for "A Time For Tales" and "The Reader's Notebook."
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