“Dr. O” A Driving Force Behind Mount Carmel Outreach

There may not be a more mission-driven program at Mount Carmel than Mount Carmel Outreach.

It’s a program that provides medical services to the underserved in our community, including people living on the land all around central Ohio. Using the Mobile Coach as a base of operations, Outreach is essentially an urgent care on wheels, providing evaluation and management for chronic and acute medical problems, diagnostic tests, minor surgery, free medication and hospital referrals to people who either can’t or haven’t seen a doctor for whatever reason.

Outreach’s social workers also provide case management and on-site mental health counseling, and spiritual counseling is available with the program’s chaplain. Needless to say, it’s an essential health resource for those without any resources. And the man “driving the bus” as Outreach’s medical director for more than 15 years is Dr. Jack O’Handley.

“Dr. O,” who’s also served on the Mount Carmel Foundation board, is the Mount Carmel mission personified. He came to Mount Carmel in 1995 as program director of the Family Medicine Residency program after 14 years in private practice in Lancaster. During his six years with the residency program, he was also serving as volunteer medical director for Outreach. So he’s technically been involved with Outreach for more than two decades.

“My job is to provide medical care to the poor and underserved of Franklin County,” said O’Handley. “I oversee our eight clinic sites around the city, supervise the nurses and nurse practitioner working with me, approve Outreach policies and procedures, evaluate our programs and clinic sites, train medical students and residents in Outreach and Street Medicine, and interface with the various other agencies that we partner with. It’s a sizable undertaking, but it’s something I and our entire team are incredibly passionate about.”

And that passion has led to a great deal of trust between the program and the people it serves.

“Entering back into society after chronic homelessness is a difficult process that requires patience, trust and a great deal of energy,” the doctor shared. “Because of the trust we’ve developed over the years with the poor and underserved of our community, we’re able to reach and make an impact on people who’ve been shunned or chosen to cut themselves off from society.”

That perseverance has not only led to a great deal of success for the program, but hope from both the medical professionals involved and the patients they serve.

“Each of us is a child of God and deserving of all the help we can give,” said Dr. O’Handley. “Whether it’s going out in a January blizzard to find a patient who had stage 3 hypertension or giving a hoodie as a Christmas present to a longtime patient, our successes are a motivating factor in our work. They lead us to feel hopeful even in the direst circumstances. They’ve also earned us the respect of not only our patients, but our peers and partnering organizations as well.”

Dr. O sees the entire program as an outgrowth of Mount Carmel’s unwavering mission and vision.

“Under the guidance of the Sisters of the Holy Cross, the Mount Carmel mission has never changed,” he affirmed. “We continue to be dedicated to helping the poor and underserved. And with the commitment and guidance of Sister Barbara Hahl and the hard work and dedication of Regional Director of Outreach Brian Pierson, that’s certain to continue.”

And that’s a good thing. Because the challenges facing central Ohio’s most vulnerable citizens aren’t dissipating.

“Substance abuse and mental health problems are driving factors for homelessness in the majority of our patients,” O’Handley said. “Addressing these problems now and in the future is a great need, and our continuing partnerships with organizations that focus on these problems will continue to be very important to achieving our mission.”

But with dedicated servants like Dr. O’Handley and the Outreach team, and the generous support of Foundation donors, that mission is possible.

This article was originally published in the 2016 Annual Report to the Community.