Over the span of the pandemic, local and state public health leveraged additional volunteers in several of their response activities, including mass vaccination events, testing sites, and isolation and quarantine support. These volunteers, deployed through local medical reserve corps programs, were critical in filling gaps in our public health capacity and response. In times of emergency and crisis, the medical response corps provides the ability to further protect Washingtonians’ health, safety, and lives. However, without a statewide corps, deployment of local corps volunteers is limited to areas that have local programs, leaving parts of our state with inadequate support in the event of a public health emergency response. Additionally, concurrent threats further stretch local programs. For example, in the last year, large parts of our state experienced weather events, such as extreme heat, flooding, and wildfires, simultaneously with the pandemic.
A Statewide Medical Reserve Corps will support local corps programs by being nimble and available to be deployed across the state for large-scale emergencies and public health threats.
These corps volunteers will fill critical gaps in public health response and health services in the community. Complimenting existing local programs ensures vulnerable populations like our elders in long-term care facilities, people experiencing homelessness, people with special healthcare needs, and marginalized communities are prioritized for interventions and treatment, connected to healthcare services, and receive appropriate risk communications and information. WSALPHO worked with the bill sponsors to ensure that language that maintains and prioritizes local corps deployment to local emergencies first is maintained.
HB 1452 establishes a statewide medical reserve corps under the direction of the Secretary of Health. In declared emergencies or emerging public health threats, the secretary would have the authority to deploy this corps of volunteers across the state as part of public health’s state and local response. The bill sets up corps volunteer guidelines, certification requirements, and safety measures for volunteers. WSALPHO worked with the bill sponsors to include language that maintains and prioritizes local corps deployment to local emergencies before statewide corps deployment.
We anticipate a hearing on HB1452 in House Healthcare and Wellness on Tuesday, January 24. We are excited to support a state medical corps that will support and enhance local response efforts!
WSALPHO, Policy Director