A closer look at the DCHD Medical Reserves Corps

By Kendra Hennis 
September is national preparedness month, so I found it important to highlight the Douglas County Medical Reserves Corps and junior Medical Reserves Corps programs through the Douglas County Health Department, both essential groups here in Douglas County to help keep us safe. 

The first meeting of the Junior Medical Reserves Corps will be held on September 22 at 6 p.m. at the Douglas County Health Department. The purpose of the program is to draw young adults to be more prepared during an emergency, create a framework of skills and abilities that the young volunteers can take with them through their career path, and train young adults to respond better to the needs of individual communities, thereby enhancing local emergency response efforts. The program also hopes to provide reserve capacity at the community level to respond to local health needs and priorities and to provide a network opportunity with individuals that are in the medical field and other related fields. 

A junior MRC volunteer is expected to attend a family orientation meeting to become familiar with protocols and chain of command, as well as recieve an identification badge and personal protective equipment. Over time, there will be optional trainings to further the disaster preparedness knowledge and personal advancement of the volunteers as they choose. After the initial training, there will be “mock disaster” opportunities. In the event of an actual emergency, junior MRC members would report to the Emergency Operations Center to assist with the emergency. 

To join the junior MRC, you must be ages 15 to 18 and have a drive to help the community and give back. You do not need to be medically trained, the program needs all types of volunteers. There are a variety of volunteer opportunities to use the skills and abilities that you have currently and the ones the program will teach you.

The program meets once a month for approximately an hour and a half, with the occasional hands-on training that will take longer. It is okay if you can’t make it to every meeting. Materials can be emailed to you so you have the most current information. They can also set up Zoom links for those that are unable to join in person and still want to take part. They say that they’re, “willing to work around obstacles, so that you can take part in becoming better prepared. 

The Medical Reserves Corps was created by the Douglas County Health Department through a grant in 2003. The program is designed to recruit, train, and mobilize available community members who have the background to be helpful in the event of a disaster. The program extends beyond medical emergencies and is also used to help in other community-oriented ways. Health Education community outreach efforts through the Douglas County Health Department Medical assistance to sudden emergencies including but not limited to: fires, plane crashes, chemical spills, terriorism incidents, explosions, unusual disease outbreaks, or suspected bio-terrorism incidents that may require a massive immunization of people or distrbation of preventative medicine. 

The MRC says their mission is “to assist medical workers in any kind of emergency that may overburden medical facilities in the Douglas County area.” 

The Medical Reserves Corps can be used to supplement existing emergency services when a disaster is of a magnitude that overwhelms those existing resources. In addition, an MRC can provide relief for overworked workers in the event of an emergency. For instance, during an infectious disease outbreak, the MRC can help administer vaccines in a timely manner to keep panic to a minimum and maintain a quality of care. Or, an MRC member could relieve a public health nurse who has been on the scene for 24 hours. 

Director Adam Buthuis said that “the programs are about getting people prepared for not what happens, but when it happens. Disasters know no age so it is important to get people involved early because then they are always prepared.”

To become a volunteer for the Junior MRC or MRC program or find out more information, please call 217-253-4137 or email adam.bulthuis@douglascountyil.com.

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