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April 6 was a big day for disaster responders! Governor Charlie Baker proclaimed last Saturday as the first-ever Massachusetts Medical Reserve Corps Day. This special recognition honors 13,000 MRC members in 38 units across the state.
Nationally, MRC volunteers train for emergencies throughout the year. They also provide flu clinic staffing, screening for diseases, public health education, and a vast array of other services.
A major Training Day took place last Saturday for five of those units. These included the Upper Merrimack Valley MRC, which is based at the Westford Health Department. One hundred seventy MRC members and nursing students converged at the Bedford campus of Middlesex Community College to sharpen their responder skills.
The theme for the day was that ‘Everyone Matters.’ Each person at the conference – medical, administrative, behavioral health, and other fields – was reminded that THEY could help to save a life.
Middlesex County District Attorney Marian Ryan delivered a powerful keynote address. She began with statistics on the opioid epidemic. Last year, State Troopers responded to 195 fatal overdoses in Middlesex County. There were 43 since the start of 2019. The opioid crisis that her office has been fighting for five years transcends communities across the state. Ryan described numerous approaches being taken to address this crisis.
Sandi Mackey presented on ‘Teamwork in Trauma Response.’ Mackey is the Trauma Service Nurse Director at Lahey Hospital. Her compelling presentation included the video of a massive pit crew changing the tires of a race car within seconds. Mackey emphasized the qualities that help providers work well together under stress.
Seasoned radio news anchor Rod Fritz talked about media coverage of disasters over the years. He advised the audience to consider multiple sources of news coverage to get a more accurate sense of a story. Terry Downes, whose Homeland Security Program at MCC hosted the day’s event, gave impassioned comments on awareness of terrorism and the need for ALL Americans to stay vigilant. Downes has two close family members who were seriously injured in the Boston Marathon bombings. He urged collaboration to address these kinds of crises.
There were nine classroom sessions in the afternoon. Topics covered cardiac arrest pediatrics, opioid awareness, Narcan training, traumatic brain injury, risk communications, nursing skills, service animals, and diabetes. Each speaker was given a 72-hour kit in appreciation for donating their time to present.