Many medical and health professionals volunteered to help victims following the September 11, 2001 attacks. Volunteers arrived to find a chaotic scene with no clear lines of authority; therefore, they organized themselves, took control of the situation and began to triage victims. Their response underscored the need for a more organized, formal approach to integrate medical and health volunteers with the complex medical emergency and public health response systems during an emergency.
In response to this need, Congress allocated funds to establish the MRC Program Office under the Office of the U.S. Surgeon General. Former President George W. Bush first announced the MRC Program in his January 2002 State of the Union address, and it was officially launched as a demonstration project in July 2002. Since then, MRC units have formed in every state, and thousands of individuals have registered or expressed interest in volunteering. Local communities have also worked diligently and creatively to establish the foundation of community support and planning necessary for their units to function effectively. As a result, this national movement adds unique capabilities and increased strength to communities nationwide.
During emergencies, MRC volunteers have a history of supporting communities in need nationwide. When the southeast was battered by hurricanes in 2004, MRC volunteers in the affected areas and beyond helped communities by filling in at local hospitals, assisting their neighbors at emergency shelters, and providing first aid to those injured by the storms. During the response, more than 30 from across the country to assist the American Red Cross (ARC) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
During the 2005 hurricane season, nearly 1,500 MRC volunteers were willing to deploy outside of their local jurisdiction to the disaster-affected areas to provide support. Of these, almost 200 volunteers from 25 MRC units were activated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to staff special needs shelters, community health centers, and health clinics, and to assist health assessment teams in the Gulf Coast region. The ARC activated more than 400 volunteers from 80 local MRC units to provide support to ARC health and mental health services as well as shelter operations.
The Office of the U.S. Surgeon General has outlined priorities for the health of individuals and the nation in the National Prevention Strategy. The Strategy, which aims to guide our nation in the most effective and achievable means for improving health and well-being, also helps to guide the activities of MRC units. In addition to supporting emergency response, the MRC plays a key role in promoting prevention and preparedness to improve health and save lives. The MRC program is uniquely positioned to promote the strategic directions and priorities outlined by the Strategy and to strengthen the health of the nation - one community at a time.
The MRC is a partner of the White House’s USA Freedom Corps and the Department of Homeland Security’s Citizen Corps. Citizen Corps, AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, and the Peace Corps are part of the President’s USA Freedom Corps, which promotes volunteerism and service nationally and internationally.