Health and Family Services Cabinet
State Health Department Launches New Volunteer Health Professionals Program
The Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) today announced the launch of the Kentucky Health Emergency Listing of Professionals for Surge (K HELPS) program, a state-based system to register medical professionals interested in volunteering to offer assistance during public health emergencies or disasters.
“In the event of a large-scale public health emergency, health and medical systems would be overwhelmed with individuals seeking treatment, and the need to meet this demand would be critical,” said William D. Hacker, M.D., commissioner for public health and acting undersecretary for health at the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. “The new K HELPS program will allow public health officials to streamline the registration of health professionals and apply emergency credentialing standards to prospective volunteers.”
The new K HELPS program was designed to complement the existing Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) programs, community-based organizations that organize and utilize medical professional volunteers to supplement existing local emergency and public health resources for responding to emergencies. Under the new system, K HELPS and local MRC units will work together. Currently, an MRC covers 114 of 120 counties in Kentucky, with local health departments sponsoring most units in conjunction with local emergency management agencies.
Volunteers can register with K HELPS online at https://khelps.chfs.ky.gov. Registrants will be assigned to the MRC unit associated with their geographical area. The local MRC unit will complete the approval process by verifying the person’s license, completing a background check, issuing an identification badge and providing orientation and training. The new system also has the ability to alert volunteers by e-mail and telephone. Local MRC units also can alert and activate volunteers.
While all health workers willing to volunteer are invited to register, the current emphasis is on recruiting physicians, nurses, pharmacists, social workers, radiological technologists, respiratory therapists and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians. DPH began to build the K HELPS program during Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, registering approximately 1,400 health and medical professionals for volunteer medical support to affected areas in the Gulf Coast.
The Fletcher administration has focused on increasing public health preparedness statewide through a variety of initiatives and improvements, including: extensive pandemic influenza planning and summits in all 120 counties; upgrading the DPH emergency operations center and adding a public health mobile communications trailer; establishing regional caches of pharmaceuticals and chemical weapon antidotes; creating the Kentucky Outreach and Information Network (KOIN), a grassroots network designed to reach vulnerable populations during emergencies; and setting up back-up communications systems for health departments and hospitals statewide, among others.
For more information on the K HELPS program, visit http://www.chfs.ky.gov/dph/epi/preparedness/.