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Grant gives go-ahead to Medical Reserve Corps.

Byline: TIM CHRISTIE The Register-Guard

The Lane County Medical Society has received a $50,000 federal grant to establish a local Medical Reserve Corps, a cadre of volunteers able to respond to a public health emergency.

The Lane County group is one of 42 in the United States selected to participate in the nationwide demonstration project. About 200 applicants vied for the $2 million in initial year funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The Medical Reserve Corps units are made up of local volunteers trained to respond to bioterrorism and other catastrophic events. Their responsibilities include emergency response, logistical planning, records keeping, assisting in public health and awareness campaigns and public communications.

The idea is to have a team to work in concert with existing disaster response and public health officials during health crises, said Candice Barr, executive director of the Lane County Medical Society.

Volunteers also may help with local health campaigns - such as immunizations - and health education and awareness throughout the year.

While the medical corps would be able to assist with natural disasters such as floods and earthquakes, its main purpose would be to respond quickly to a bioterrorism event, Barr said.

"Hopefully we'll never have a need for anything like that, but we want to be in a position to respond," she said.

The medical corps would respond if, for instance, one of the local hospitals was overcome by infectious disease and had to be shut down, she said.

"A lot of these bioterrorism agents have very vague symptoms," she said. "We need to be able to take care of this community if a hospital is incapacitated."

The local team will be an outgrowth of a task force established a year ago in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the anthrax attacks. The task force included local, state and federal law enforcement officials, state and local public health officials, emergency responders, doctors and nurses.

"We learned there was no cohesive system to deal with a disaster, particularly a bioterrorism disaster," Barr said. "And we didn't know each other, and now we know each other."

Barr said she hopes to recruit about 150 volunteers for the Medical Reserve Corps. She's looking for an interdisciplinary mix of doctors, nurses, pharmacists, medical office assistants and other health professionals.

One requirement of the grant is that the Lane County group create a template for establishing and operating a Medical Reserve Corps that other communities could copy.

"All of us have talents and skills and there is no better place to use those talents than in service to the local community," Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson said in a statement. "This award will help empower the citizens of Lane County to plan and establish local citizen-centered volunteer Medical Reserve Corps units."

VOLUNTEER INFO

E-mail: Lane County Medical Society at lcms@rio.com, or send resumes or inquiries to 990 W. Seventh Ave., Eugene, OR 97402.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Health
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Nov 4, 2002
Words:494
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