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Street Medicine Outreach Program helping the homeless

Posted at 7:25 PM, Jun 20, 2023
and last updated 2023-06-20 19:25:15-04

According to the Tallahassee Leon County Homelessness Dashboard, there are over 40 unsheltered encampments throughout the county. One partnership is working to bring medical services and essential items into those camps to help meet homeless people where they're at.

"We're able to bridge that gap and provide services that they may not have without us," said Allison Justice.

Justice is an Assistant Professor at Florida State University's School of Physician Practice. She oversees around 20 FSU Medical and Physician Assistant students that participate in the Homeless Outreach Medicine & Education, or HOME, Street Medicine Program.

They go out with the Kearney Center's outreach team once a week. That team visits four homeless encampments. FSU HOME Street Medicine Program President Sam Mankus said they work to give basic medical care, such as vital screenings and wound care, to help people understand their symptoms and get treated.

"They were reluctant to go to the hospital and so we did a little bit of patient education and kind of explain to them the risks of the symptoms that they were experiencing and a few days later they went to the hospital and they were having a heart attack," said Mankus.

Outreach Specialist at the Kearney Center Gabriel Trollinger said this allows people to still have their needs met even though they're experiencing homelessness.

"To be able to come to them where they are, bring a professional, that can help them in the moment, right there," said Trollinger. "What is your issue? Here's your prescription. Take this and I'll see you next week. It's hugely important for them."

Since December, the program has been able to reach almost 300 homeless people. During that time, they've also given out 1,130 meals and 523 essential items. But Justice said the program benefits the students as well.

"Getting out into the community and actually practicing some of what they're learning is super beneficial for the students," said Justice. "It helps them remember their why. Why their going to PA school."

Student Madelynn Lovelady is excited to see the impact she's made over the last year.

"People have needs and to be able to meet those needs and to be able to see the difference that we are making in the community and can make as our program begins to grow," said Lovelady.

Trollinger hopes this is the first step in making greater change in the future.

"It makes me feel good that exposing these young professionals to this problem now means it's in their head and as they move forward in their careers they're going to be more likely to be a part of the solution," said Trollinger.

The program is currently funded through a $7,000 grant. Justice said they've reapplied for more grant funding to expand the program in hopes that they'll be able to provide more medical treatment on the spot.