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Local Nonprofits as Medical Reserve Corps Housing Organizations

Mar 16, 2023 | Beth Hess

According to the most recent Network Profile of the Medical Reserve Corps, more than half (64%) of units are housed within their local health department. Another 16% are housed within their state health department or with emergency management agencies. This month we’re highlighting two units that grew out of other types of community partnership.

MRC of El Paso County (CO)

Shortly after September 11, 2001, a group of local doctors who wanted to help came together in El Paso County, CO to form an MRC unit. Today, the units’ 238 medical and non-medical volunteers serve the county housed under the El Paso County Medical Society.

The unit has good relationships with public health, the Pikes Peak Regional Office of Emergency Management, and the local healthcare coalition. During COVID-19 response, the unit worked with partners including public health, doctor groups, and the fire department. The unit is working to build relationships with area hospitals.

During COVID-19, volunteers provided call center support, assisted in area nursing homes, staffed a psychological help line, did contact tracing, staffed vaccination clinics, supported staff at the homeless shelter, and served as a liaison between hospitals and homeless populations. Through Operation Homebound, they also assisted the fire department in providing vaccinations in people’s homes.

“We have an amazing team of volunteers,” said Unit Leader Barb Bridgmon. “Non-medical volunteers picked up where needed. They helped outside in snowstorms and identified those with special needs that needed vaccination from their car.”

The unit is working hard on organizing and being ready and trained. They operate under four unit leads: organizational (includes PODs and behavioral health), logistics, volunteer engagement, and public affairs.

“The unit has a very active group of about 50 volunteers in team leader roles,” said Bridgmon. “I think this makes us a stronger unit going forward. I remind people that you don’t have to have expertise in a particular area to lead it—the people you work with will have the expertise and you will organize.”

The state’s Colorado Volunteer Mobilizer handles vetting and background checks for volunteers. The unit is using a COVID-19 Respond, Innovate, Sustain, and Equip (RISE) Award to hire a unit coordinator and to support trainings in life support, CPR, and pediatric care.

Marion County MRC (AR)

The 10 members of Marion County MRC serve a small and very rural county in Arkansas. The unit, which includes nurses, an EMT, first responders, and clerical support, is looking to grow its core of very active and engaged volunteers who have supported an array of activities. Housed under a local, community-driven organization, the unit leader herself is a volunteer.

“As a small community, it’s such a benefit to have an MRC,” said Unit Leader Janie Pugsley.

In response to cold weather and to power outages, unit volunteers have staffed shelters. They have provided food, set up bedding, and filled out paperwork, staffing the shelters in partnership with the local health department, Red Cross, and the Salvation Army.

During COVID-19 response, MRC volunteers served as vaccinators and helped with paperwork under the umbrella of local hospitals and in coordination with clinics hosted by the local health department.

The unit maintains connection to the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) and the County Judge, who oversees the business aspects of the county. The unit’s leader takes part in OEM meetings, “which is very helpful to planning and organizing,” said Pugsley. “We’re starting to get out and connect with fire departments to build membership.”

All volunteers receive a background check, are CPR and First Aid certified, and do Stop the Bleed and ICS basic trainings. The unit provides job descriptions and supplies to volunteers based on their role.

Pugsley encourages others to apply for grants to support their units saying, “having equipment helps to show that you’re serious and prepared when the need arises.”

“It’s such a great team,” said Pugsley. “They do it from the heart. I’ve never seen so many dedicated people out there supporting the community.”


About Beth Hess

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