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New reserve medical corps would help if disaster hits

By Staff
Tracy B. Cieniewicz, Hartselle Enquirer
The Morgan County Cooperative Extension System and the Alabama Department of Public Health are teaming up to bring North Alabama's first Medical Reserve Corps to Morgan County.
The Medical Reserve Corps was established by the Citizens Corps, a division of the Freedom Corps, following 9/11 as a means to pre-identify and train support medical staff in any emergency.
Morgan County Extension Coordinator Julie Dutton said the MRC does not take the place of disaster relief and emergency agencies.
"The MRC supplements other agencies," Dutton explained. "If there's an emergency and the Red Cross is short two nurses, they can call the MRC and we will already have medical professional volunteers established, identified and trained."
According to Dutton, there are only two active MRC units in Alabama, with the closest being at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. While 12 more units are in the process of being established and becoming active within the state, Dutton said Morgan County's MRC unit would still be the only in North Alabama with the closest being in Fayette County.
Each MRC unit is being established through federal Homeland Security grants distributed by state health departments.
"We applied for and received a grant to establish the MRC unit here in Morgan County," Dutton explained. "Of that seed money, 90 percent is for personal protection and nursing kits for volunteers and 10 percent is for general maintenance, like office supplies. The grant runs through the end of June 2006, so we hope the Morgan County MRC unit will be active by then."
To become an active MRC unit, Dutton said medical professional volunteers are needed in the following five divisions: doctors, nurses, emergency medical technicians, pharmacists and mental health professionals. Non-medical volunteers are also needed to handle phone calls, paperwork and background work for the medical staff.
Dutton said the MRC will be called upon in times of non-emergency as well.
"In times of non-emergency, the MRC falls under the direction of the Office of the United States Surgeon General," Dutton said. "The MRC unit will work on health issues in the community, conduct medical classes, hold health fairs, and assist the community where needed with medical prevention and preparedness education."
The first Morgan County MRC meeting will be held Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2006, at 1 p.m. at the Morgan County Emergency Management Agency in the basement of the Morgan County Courthouse. The meeting will feature speakers Andy Mullins of the Alabama Department of Public Health and the state contact for MRC units, and Dr. Tom Ellison of the UAB MRC unit.
For more information on the Morgan County MRC unit or the upcoming meeting, call Julie Dutton at 773-2549 or email jdutton@aces.edu.

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