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National Guard setting up four free medical clinics in Eastern Kentucky

Members of the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Airlift Wing unloaded medical equipment from a C-130 Hercules at Barkley Regional Airport in Paducah during a clinic there in July 2016.
Members of the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Airlift Wing unloaded medical equipment from a C-130 Hercules at Barkley Regional Airport in Paducah during a clinic there in July 2016. U.S. Air National Guard

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.

Eula Hall transformed health care in rural Kentucky by building the first -- and only -- medical clinic for low-income families. More than 40 years later, Hall, now 90, says the fight for community-based health care is as important as ever.

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 its 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 procedure. 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.

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