Revitalizing the NC-8 MRC in a Post-Pandemic World

Client Norfolk County 8

Practice Area Emergency Preparedness

The Story of the Norfolk County 8 Medical Reserve Corps

The Norfolk County 8 (NC-8) Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) has been a devoted presence in eight towns—Canton, Dedham, Milton, Needham, Norwood, Walpole, Wellesley, and Westwood—since its establishment in December 2006. Under the guidance of local Health Departments, this volunteer-based organization comprises nearly 500 individuals with both medical and non-medical backgrounds.

Focused on readiness for public health emergencies, the NC-8 MRC plays a crucial role in emergency response and community health. They actively participate in flu clinics and health fairs and assist in managing emergency shelters when the need arises. Beyond immediate responses to urgent or episodic community needs, the organization emphasizes preparedness through regular training sessions conducted across the eight towns and the broader region.

Over the years, the NC-8 MRC has steadily gained support and involvement from the local population, establishing itself as a reliable resource for community health and emergency response within Norfolk County. Since its earliest days, BME Strategies has supported the unit in a variety of ways, including direct unit coordination, facilitation of grant proposals, and program facilitation.

The Opportunity for Reinvigoration

The NC-8 MRC faced a unique opportunity for reinvigoration following the COVID-19 pandemic. During the pandemic, there was a remarkable surge in interest in volunteering in the public health sector, particularly in response to urgent needs like COVID testing, vaccination clinics, and providing essential support to individuals in quarantine or isolation. This influx of volunteers showcased an untapped pool of dedicated individuals willing to contribute to public health initiatives. As the unit gradually returned to a status quo post-COVID, there was a recognized opportunity to capitalize on this heightened interest in volunteering by channeling it into sustainable, long-term engagement. Regular training sessions are a crucial element of preparedness and have become a mechanism for retaining and nurturing this expanded volunteer base. 

The unit sought to capitalize post-pandemic opportunities—such as sustained volunteer engagement, expanded training, regional collaboration, emphasis on mental health support, and improved volunteer organization— to propel the NC-8 MRC towards a more robust, adaptable, and responsive organization, ready to meet the evolving needs of their community.

How BME Strategies Responded

The partnership between NC-8 MRC and BME Strategies has been an instrumental force in harnessing the opportunities that emerged for the NC-8 MRC following the COVID-19 pandemic. Working together, NC-8 MRC and BME executed a series of impactful initiatives.

Prioritizing the need for additional resources to fund the initiatives, BME supported NC-8 MRC in securing the RISE (Respond, Innovate, Sustain, and Equip) Award, a funding opportunity provided by the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO). This allowed for the training of NC-8 MRC affiliates as instructors in Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) to benefit the communities across the region. The initiative addressed the pressing need for mental health support, enhancing the units’ capabilities to cater to holistic health concerns.

Operational Readiness Award (ORA), also offered by NACCHO, was secured to develop a comprehensive Training Needs Assessment that became a cornerstone for identifying and understanding the specific training requirements of volunteers. Collaborating with licensing institutions, BME facilitated the offering of Continuing Education Units (CEUs) at all NC-8 MRC training sessions, fostering continuous learning and professional development among volunteers.

Beyond these targeted initiatives, BME worked with NC-8 to ensure the smooth operation and compliance of the MRC. This includes general maintenance activities, including thorough reporting to regulatory bodies like MDPH and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The support also includes maintaining up-to-date volunteer information and conducting regular system tests for MAResponds, ensuring the efficiency and reliability of volunteer management systems.

The NC-8 MRC and BME’s proactive approach and strategic utilization of funding opportunities not only strengthened the capabilities of NC-8 MRC but also positioned the organization to respond effectively to the evolving needs of the community. These work contributions played a pivotal role in empowering volunteers, enhancing training opportunities, and building the units’ readiness for future challenges.

The Results

The NC8 MRC’s continued collaboration with BME Strategies yields results that enhance the capabilities and reach of the unit. These accomplishments significantly bolster the readiness and responsiveness of the unit as a proactive and well-prepared entity within the regional public health and emergency response landscape.

Deliverables:

  • Certification of 11 NC-8 affiliates as MHFA instructors. This initiative led to the successful implementation of six MHFA training sessions, equipping volunteers and community members with crucial mental health support skills.
  • In 2023, NC-8 MRC hosted eight comprehensive training sessions covering diverse topics. These sessions ranged from personal preparedness for volunteers to whole community disaster planning, enhancing the readiness and capabilities of volunteers across various emergency scenarios.
  • NC-8 MRC maintains good standing with regulatory authorities, ensuring compliance with reporting requirements. Additionally, enhanced communication and collaboration with other unit leaders and stakeholders were established, fostering a robust network for sharing ideas and best practices.

Overall Impact Statement

Partnership with BME Strategies strengthens the Norfolk County 8 Medical Reserve Corps, enhancing their training capabilities and readiness for diverse emergency scenarios, positively impacting the community’s public health preparedness.