Next month, the Kentucky Department for Local Government is partnering with the Air Force Reserve Command and other branches of the U.S. military to offer healthcare at no cost to citizens in four Eastern Kentucky counties.
The partnership, “Operation Coal Country,” is a joint-service mission comprised of about 175 military personnel from the Air Force Reserve, Navy Reserve, Army Reserve, Air National Guard and active duty Navy. A similar effort, led by the Kentucky Air National Guard in Eastern Kentucky in 2018, provided more than 11,000 medical, dental and optometry procedures with an economic impact of just over $1 million, said officials.
“The DLG is working closely with communities and local leadership to host the participating troops and provide logistical and programmatic support”, explained 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 Clay, Jackson, Knox and Leslie Counties to help facilitate the project’s success.”
“Operation Coal Country,” officials said, is an Innovative Readiness Training program (IRT) that gives military health professionals an opportunity to provide medical, dental and optical care in a field environment, similar to how they would when responding to a natural disaster or military operation, while offering services to citizens who are uninsured or under-insured.
“We consistently hear stories from our service members on how we’ve changed someone’s life during these IRTs, while at the same time providing vital training to our own members,” said Capt. Jonathan A. Polos, U.S. Air Force, who is the mission commander.
Available services will include: Medical screenings, non-emergency medical treatments, sports physicals, dental exams, dental cleanings, fillings and extractions, optical exams and single-prescription eyeglasses will be offered.
“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 said. “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.”
Although Perry County is not one of the selected counties for the operation, it is neighboring many of the available locations, and officials said they will be glad to accept people from any county. Sites offering care will be located at the EXCEL Building in Manchester; Grace Covenant Ministries/Annville Institute in Annville; First Baptist Church in Barbourville; Leslie County 911 Call Center in Hyden; and Oneida Community Church in Oneida.
All clinics will be open Aug. 3 - 10, and hours of operation will be from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday. Patients will be accepted on a first-come, first-served walk-in basis. The clinics are open to anyone, ages two through adult, regardless of place of residence. No insurance is required, and an ID is not necessary to receive care.