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UK College of Medicine partners with Emergency Shelter of NKY for onsite health clinic

The Emergency Shelter of Northern Kentucky (ESNKY), an immediate entrance, low-barrier shelter for adults ages 18 and up in Northern Kentucky, has partnered with the University of Kentucky College of Medicine-Northern Kentucky Campus to open an onsite healthcare clinic at the shelter.

As part of ESNKY’s expanded services available to guests in its new facility that opened in February, the clinic is accessible to those sheltering in the building several nights each week. While the clinic is not intended to replace primary care, it meets an immediate and acute need for the shelter’s guests and is an integral part of the holistic approach the shelter takes when it comes to serving individuals experiencing homelessness. By partnering with UK medical students, guests receive the care they need, and the students gain valuable real-world experience.

“Individuals experiencing homelessness are a vulnerable population without consistent access to healthcare leading to a higher risk of death, emergency room visits and hospitalizations. It became increasingly frustrating to not even be able to give out Tylenol for aches and pains,” said Kim M. Webb, Executive Director for ESNKY. “When building our new facility, we always planned to make space for a clinic so that we can bring the healthcare to those that need it. Partnering with UK medical students is a win for our guests, the students, the healthcare system and the community.”

Dr. Holly Danneman, Assistant Dean for the UK College of Medicine-Northern Kentucky Campus and ESNKY board member, had been looking for an opportunity to partner with a local organization for a student-run clinic when she reached out to Webb about collaborating.

“The experience our medical students gain from working in a real-world environment is immeasurable. Not only do they gain practical medical experience, but they get to learn about the social determinants of health and healthcare disparities that can factor into a patient’s health,” said Dr. Danneman. “Our students have poured their hearts and souls into getting this clinic up and running. We provide a safe environment to meet the immediate medical needs of the guests while helping to connect them to important services such as finding primary care, filling prescription medications and signing up for Medicaid/Medicare so they can take ownership of their long-term healthcare.”

Affectionately named CCRU (Compassionate Care Reaching yoU, pronounced “crew”), UK medical students staff the clinic one to two days a week and are accompanied by licensed, board-certified physicians who are volunteering their time and expertise. Patient ailments range from headaches, joint pain, arthritis, colds, heartburn and wound care to more serious cases like gangrene or chronic medical conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetic conditions.

Beyond medical skills, the students are learning how to run a clinic, manage inventory, schedule shifts and work with partners. With shifts filling up as quickly as they are posted, Webb and Dr. Danneman are already seeing the success and significance of the program.

“The clinic’s value transcends the physical hard skills of being a doctor,” Dr. Danneman said. “It enriches the students and inspires them, and it helps to avoid burnout.”

Separately, the clinic is open several additional nights each week under the care of a paid nurse practitioner through a contract with St. Elizabeth Healthcare. The nurse practitioner and supplies for the clinic are possible through grant funds and private donations.

In addition to overnight sheltering and the healthcare clinic, ESNKY offers the region’s first Daytime Navigation and Engagement Center, which provides a way for guests to connect to other services including community partner meeting rooms, guest mail services, self-service laundry, showers, phone charging stations, internet and computer access.

Donations to support the clinic can be made online. To learn more about ESNKY and its mission, visit emergencyshelternky.org or call 859-291-4555.

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