WOOD RIVER — For 10 years, Madison County Health Department has coordinated the Madison County Medical Reserve Corps, a team of local volunteers who donate their time and expertise to support emergency and public health resources during public health emergencies.
The Medical Reserve Corps was founded by President George W. Bush in 2002, when he asked Americans to volunteer in support of their country. On Oct. 21, the Madison County Board adopted a proclamation declaring Nov. 3 as Madison County Medical Reserve Corps Day, recognizing 10 years of service by the Madison County Health Department MRC Unit 367. The Madison County unit has 300 volunteers, is the sixth largest out of the 76 units in Illinois and is the largest unit in the bi-state region.
“We have a fantastic, dedicated group of volunteers as well as a devoted unit coordinator,” said Debra Tscheschlok, the health department’s public health emergency response coordinator. “Our MRC Unit’s function is to deploy and respond within a few hours to any large-scale public health emergency where our assistance is needed. MCHD employs 38 staff members, which is just not enough responders to attend to a population our size in the event of a public health emergency such as a pandemic flu in which the entire population needs to be vaccinated. With volunteer assistance we can vaccinate more people per hour, thus saving more lives.”
In the event of an actual or potential public health emergency, the health department will implement measures to prepare, prevent or stop the spread of disease to protect the health and welfare of Madison County citizens. The health department wants an active, engaged and mobilized community of residents, businesses and other organizational partners to be self-prepared and to assist in response.
“We need volunteers to help us with the overall response and we need community members, families, businesses, schools and organizations to have emergency plans and emergency kits to be self-reliant at least for the first 3 to 7 days of an incident,” said Toni Corona, the department’s public health administrator.
The unit continues to recruit medical and non-medical individuals and train them to function effectively under the Incident Command System. Volunteers have attended, taken and participated in:
• Orientation training sessions: 81 percent of Madison County MRC Volunteers have attended a training session where they learned about basic Public Health 101, the Incident Command System, the Strategic National Stockpile and family preparedness.
• Volunteers have taken FEMA, Psychological First Aid, First Aid CPR AED, CERT and other relevant courses.
• Volunteers have participated in full-scale exercises with Madison County EMA, regional partners and local jurisdictions.
• Helped at H1N1 and health department flu clinics.
Unit leadership has provided family preparedness presentations to community organizations and schools and distributed family preparedness materials at health fairs, community events and schools. They have actively participated in the National Preparedness Month and Resolve to be Ready campaigns.
Unit leadership continues to network with colleagues throughout the state through their membership in MRCIL and at monthly Gateway Volunteer Network (a collaborative bi-state effort for the recruitment, training, retention and recognition of MRC volunteers) meetings. This network of volunteers could support response and recovery efforts to address the public health effects of disasters.
“We appreciate the time and effort that our volunteers contribute in order to make our Medical Reserve Corps a success,” volunteer coordinator Cathy Paone said. “We could not carry out our mission without dedicated and committed volunteers like them.”
In honor of 10 years of service by volunteers, the health department is kicking off a year of celebrations with the Madison County Medical Reserve Corps Day Nov. 3 and continuing with recognition, training and exercise activities.
For information, visit www.madisonchd.org and click on the MRC tab or contact Paone at (618) 296-6096 or firstname.lastname@example.org. More information is available at www.facebook.com/MadisonCHD, www.facebook.com/gatewayvolunteernetwork, @MadisonCHD on Twitter and www.youtube.com/MadCoHealth.