Street medicine takes care where it’s needed most

When it opened in 2017, the Providence Community Care Center helped achieve Olympia’s vision of meeting the needs of marginalized and underserved individuals. For more than three years, this facility provided physical and behavioral health care to many people experiencing homelessness.

By late 2022, the COVID-19 pandemic had set in, and the center’s resources grew and improved to meet the evolving needs of the community. The program further adapted to an outreach model called street medicine, where the Providence team meets clients where they are, removing the obstacle of finding transportation to downtown.

Now mobilized, the team works out of a donated, refurbished ambulance and medical RV. They provide direct, comprehensive care and help make connections to other social service agencies. They also partner with the county to jointly operate a Homeless Outreach Stabilization Team with established connections in local encampments and tiny-home communities.

Kristyn Criss, ARNP, program manager, said the new approach is reaching the community’s most vulnerable residents. “We come alongside our patients and walk with them toward achieving health, one step at a time,” Criss said. "Earlier access to treatment and interventions, or even preventative services, reduces avoidable emergency department visits and benefits the entire community.”