Operation Safety Net a model for medical care for the homeless



Jim Withers, MD, who founded Operation Safety Net in 1992, says his early years of practicing street medicine in Pittsburgh were a product of his imagination. "I made it up, and I had a philosophy that drove it. It's 'The streets have to teach healthcare how to meet them on their terms.'" And have they? "They've taught us a great deal, and they're continuing," he said. "I feel like we're in the, maybe, sixth grade at best, but we're learning." And Withers, along with Operation Safety Net program director Linda Sheets, has shared those lessons with the rest of the world. "Jim has certainly been a very passionate visionary," said David Deci, who in 2005 helped West Virginia University medical students form a street medicine program called the Mushroom Project that was modeled on Operation Safety Net. The Pittsburgh outreach is a program of the Pittsburgh Mercy Health System, part of Catholic Health East and sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy."What started as a very local response to providing care on the streets he transformed into a global movement."
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