Operation Safety Net

Operation Safety Net (OSN) is a Street Medicine program in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania . OSN was founded when Dr. Jim Withers and Mike Sallows began to make house calls at Pittsburgh. [1] In time, other formally homelessoutreach workers and medical volunteers joined the effort. In 1993, OSN became a nonprofit organization under the Pittsburgh Mercy Health System with Linda Sheets as the program administrator. It has grown into the nation’s first full-time street-based medical delivery system. [2]OSN’s primary functions are to improve the well-being of the homeless of Pittsburgh, advocate for health-care justice, educate health-care students, and to assist other cities to develop their own street medicine programs.

Operation Safety Net visits the homeless directly where they sleep through walking teams of the formerly homeless and medical outreach staff. Most of OSN’s work force are volunteers, but a dedicated office. Services are available year-round, 24-hours a day. The work of OSN has evolved to include medical, education, preventive health services, hospital consults, and extensive public education. OSN has received numerous national and international awards [3] and was the subject of the paper One Bridge to the Next.

Operation Safety Net has become a model for other cities, such as, Santa Barbara, California ; San Diego, California ; Morgantown, West Virginia ; Atlanta, Georgia ; and Chicago, Illinois . [4] Through extensive global networking, OSN helped to create a collaborative street art that hosts the annual International Street Medicine Symposium (supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Glaxo Smith Kline ). [5] As of 2007, there are 21 US cities and 11 international cities represented.


  1. Jump up^ Malloy, Michael G.”Pittsburgh’s Operation Safety Net Is Making A Difference to the Underserved,” AAMC Reporter, March, 2003.
  2. Jump up^ Umar, Kauthar B. MA. “Health Care Headaches: Accessing Safety Net Services,”HHS Office of Minority HealthClosing The Gap,August 2003.
  3. Jump up^ * Srikameswaran, Anita. “‘Street doc’ honored for work with homeless,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Thursday, August 15, 2002.
  4. Jump up^ Groves, Martha. “Street medicine: house calls without the house,” Los Angeles Times, April 3, 2007.
  5. Jump up^ Fahy, Joe. ” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Monday, October 10, 2005.

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