“Doctors without Walls” is a group of people who are dedicated to providing free volunteer medical care to the most vulnerable people in Santa Barbara County
The non-profit holds weekly clinics at Pershing Park and Alameda Park. Since 2005, the group has been providing what they call "Street Medicine" to the underserved people of the community, which means they deliver health care services directly to people living and sleeping on the streets
They serve almost 1300 people yearly. The group is staffed with physicians, social workers and paramedics. Others help with social media outreach and digital record-keeping.
All are non-paid volunteers who spend their nights helping the people in the community that need help the most: the people who are unable to receive health care in more traditional ways.
Dr. Mary-Louise Scully, who specializes in Infectious Disease, says she got involved with the group after realizing the need in the community. "I used to go to Africa to volunteer my time but then I realized that there are people right here in Santa Barbara that need these services.”
Dr. Scully works at Sansum Clinic by day, but she, along with countless others volunteer their time and energy to help people who’ve fallen through the cracks of the health care system.
Zoe Teton, who helps the non-profit in a variety of ways, made the point that not all of the patients are homeless who attend the weekly clinics. “We don't just serve the homeless, we serve people who have lost their jobs, maybe they don't have insurance anymore, maybe they are living in their cars.”
The team also performs street rounds once a week. They fill up backpacks with medicine and other supplies and hit the streets trying to find people who aren’t able to attend the weekly clinics at the park.
Justin Avigliano is responsible for coordinating the backpacks used on the street rounds. "The people we are looking for are the people who are sometimes in such distress they can’t even make it out to the clinics.”
The statistics are staggering: over 79 percent of the homeless in Santa Barbara County have some disease that puts them at risk of premature death. The members of “Doctors without Walls” realize they can’t save everyone, but they have had incredible success in their 9-year existence.
“We’ve helped some people find housing, others have found jobs. It’s great to see the success stories,” Dr. Scully said after another successful night of treating people in the park.