In a large-scale public health emergency, health and medical system surge capacity is critical. K HELPS registers health professionals, applies emergency credentialing standards and verifies prospective volunteers for rapid deployment in the event of a public health emergency.
Since 2003, the U.S. Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) has grown rapidly. Sponsored by the federal Office of the Surgeon General, MRC programs supplement existing local public health and emergency preparedness initiatives. In Kentucky, all 120 counties are served y a registered MRC, most of which are sponsored by local health departments in partnership with local emergency management agencies.
K HELPS complements local MRC programs. Volunteers can register with K HELPS online and choose the local MRC unit associated with their geographical areas. The K HELPS system verifies volunteer credentials and notifies local health departments to complete the approval process. The local MRC unit provides volunteer orientation, training and issues volunteer ID badges. K HELPS and local MRCs can alert volunteers by email, telephone or both when needed.
To meet surge capacity needs, a variety of volunteers is needed. Current emphasis is placed on registering, credentialing and training physicians, nurses, pharmacists, social workers, radiological technologists, respiratory therapists and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians. To help meet behavioral health surge capacity needs, K HELPS partners with the Kentucky Community Crisis Response Board to involve psychologists, counselors and therapists. The system allows volunteers to be involved at any level. No training is required to be approved at the first local level. Volunteers also are afforded the opportunity to take online training or participate in regional disaster drills and exercises.