Bowling Green’s ‘street medicine’ program for homeless serves 60 per month, is one of few in small metropolitan communities in U.S.

Street medicine coordinator Melissa Cowles talks with William Schultz after giving him a new hat and jacket near the Bowling Green Public Library. (Daily News photo by Austin Anthony)

Bowling Green, Kentucky’s third largest city with an estimated population of 68,000, has a “Street Medicine” program that treats the homeless “with basic medical care and services three times each week, wherever they might be,” reports Caroline Eggers of the Bowling Green Daily News.

The program is run by Hotel Inc., a local nonprofit that uses all capital letters in rendering its name. “In 2012, HOTEL INC patients were treated at the office once weekly by a nurse practitioner,” Eggers writes. “They began literal street rounds in 2014, after training under Dr. Jim Withers, a pioneer of street medicine in the U.S.”

The program “serves about 60 people each month with 150 services,” Eggers reports. “The street medicine team conducts vital checks, dresses wounds, arranges doctor’s appointments and team members instruct clients on how to be compliant with doctors, how to get medications and how to find transportation.”

Practicing street medicine is “a radical plunge into the reality of excluded people,” Withers told the newspaper. “It’s a no-brainer; it’s where the really sick people are.” He said homeless populations in smaller communities can be overlooked. “If you’re outdoors in a small community, you’ve really run out of options,” he said. “Most people really cling to the indoors.”

“As one of the only small cities with street medicine programs, Bowling Green serves as an example for similar-sized communities,” Eggers writes. In 2018, the nonprofit “received a grant to mentor a new street medicine program in Northern Kentucky.

The Bowling Green program “is partially grant funded, and partially funded by private donations,” Eggers reports. Its annual budget is “about $49,000, but it’s variable. They’re currently working with about $8,000 from two grants and are planning to renew the same grants in the spring with the Good Samaritan Foundation and WellCare Health Plans.