LIBERTY – Sullivan County Public Health Services had always wanted a reserve of volunteers to call upon, but when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, that long-held desire became a pressing need.
“As part of our response to the onslaught of coronavirus, we quickly coalesced a group of volunteers to aid us at our community clinics,” recalled Public Health Director Nancy McGraw. “They were incredibly helpful during the entire extent of the crisis.”
As of June 2021, 354 volunteers with Public Health Services had given 11,653 volunteer hours, mostly at 49 community clinics held from January through June. Some handled paperwork, others directed participants to the correct location, and some took on medical duties, including dispensing vaccines. Thanks to the hard work of Sam Avrett, MPH, who as a Health Services Advisory Board member volunteered to coordinate this effort and get it off the ground during the mass vaccination clinics, the team was able to organize very quickly.
“Over 40 of our volunteers possess a medical degree or license, allowing them to work alongside our nurses and other skilled professionals,” acknowledged McGraw. “We even had a pharmacist and two dentists assisting!”
The success of the effort means it’s not going away. Sullivan County is in the process of applying to create an official Medical Reserve Corps through the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
“With COVID-19 cases creeping back up around the nation, it’s prudent we have a cadre of dedicated volunteers ready to help Public Health respond to a potential increase locally,” noted District 2 Legislator Nadia Rajsz, chair of the Sullivan County Legislature’s Health & Family Services Committee. “It’s also good to know that we’ll have hundreds of talented, trained locals for other health crises in the future. They will strengthen our Public Health team, which is the backbone of our response efforts.”
Everyone who is registered on the ServNY website with Sullivan County will be considered part of the Medical Reserve Corps, when it is officially established and approved by the Federal government. For those who would like to be a part of the Corps, go to www.sullivanny.us/Departments/Publichealth/clinicvolunteer for details and signup instructions.
“Registration in ServNY is open to any health care or mental health professional, as well as laypersons who are willing to serve in administrative or support roles during public health emergencies,” explained McGraw. “I encourage anyone who’s over 18 and interested to put themselves on the list. They will be key to helping us increase our health rankings in the years to come.”
Examples of non-medical volunteers include greeters, line monitors, registration, inventory, data entry and logistics. To learn more, call (845) 292-5910, or email volunteerMRC@sullivanny.us.