If a health emergency strikes Denton County and overwhelms responders, officials have volunteers they can call on for help — 800 of them.
That’s the number of men and women in the Denton County Health Department’s Medical Reserve Corps. These volunteers come from all walks of life and can serve in a number of roles if they are called on to mobilize in the county.
The corps was established alongside others across the country in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, according to Sandi Wiggins, Medical Reserve Corps coordinator. She said President George W. Bush established the groups as a means to quickly mobilize volunteers during a disaster.
“Our team has been around since 2002, and we have a very active corps — everything from greeters to people who are medically trained,” she said. “We use everything from ham radio operators to data-entry people — everything you could think you would need.”
Wiggins said the corps has often assisted when the health department encountered situations that depleted its resources.
As examples, she noted the recent West Nile epidemic when 20 corps members were called in to help answer hotline calls and provide information to the public, and when corps members were called upon to assist with H1N1 vaccinations during flu clinics.
The corps was even called upon to help out at Tarrant County shelters during Hurricane Katrina.
That was the motivation for Patrice Capan to volunteer her time and skills.
“Any one of us can be a victim of that,” she said. “I would like someone to know what they were doing if I was in need of assistance, so I think that’s why all of us volunteer.”
Capan, a clinical nursing specialist and executive director of Family Health Inc. in Denton County, touted the positive strides the reserve corps has made over the years in the areas of training and personnel.
“The other part of it is we have all gone through background checks,” she said. “You know when people appear that they are supposed to be there. With Katrina, you had a lot of people volunteer, but you had a lot of creeps. This is a secure system, which is very nice, as well.”
Jacque Walston, a retired legal clerk, serves as the volunteer coordinator for the organization and said she has been a member since 2007.
“I enjoy being a member because it does a lot of good when needed and, yet, doesn’t make a great demand of my time,” she said.
Walston said she manages the member database in the office, filing training certifications and producing information e-mails for the members.
She said the organization would like to see the reserve corps grow larger.
“It gives a lot of people an opportunity to give back to their immediate neighborhood and community,” she said. “We have members from the towns all over the county. Ultimately, when a call-up is needed, the people in that region will set up a point of dispensing in their hometown or region. It’s direct involvement.”
BJ LEWIS can be reached at 940-566-6875. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.