To commemorate 9/11, on Sept. 24, 120 Deschutes County Public Health Reserve Corps (DCPHRC) and state ESAR-VHP volunteers, plus 16 AmeriCorps*VISTA members, participated in Project Connect in Redmond, Ore.
For two years, the DCPHRC has helped serve and carry out the mission of Project Connect, which is to “rally our region to support and create lasting solutions for those experiencing, or at risk of, homelessness here in Central Oregon. Project Connect is a component of Central Oregon’s Regional 10-year Strategy to End Homelessness,” said State Medical Reserve Corps Coordinator Akiko Berkman.
At Project Connect, two VISTA members acted as ASL interpreters and one as a Spanish-English interpreter. Other volunteers registered patients at check-in, provided dental intake and exit interviews, took photos, and produced official copies of birth certificates for guests. Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) and ESAR-VHP volunteers were deployed as if it were a real mass casualty event and they were alerted, registered, pre-verified, confirmed, and went through a check-in and demobilization process at the event. All volunteers worked under the Incident Command System. “This event is our best marketing tool for recruiting MRC volunteers and is an incredible testament to building community resiliency in our community” said DCHRC unit coordinator, Mary Goodwin.
More than 3,400 people attended the tri-county event. The medical area serving at least a third of those, included services such as dental, vision, mental health, women's’ health, HIV and hepatitis C screening and testing, immunizations, addiction services, fluoride treatments, and other referral services, such as Planned Parenthood. Project Connect is based on a national best practice model — Project Homeless Connect, which originated in San Francisco in October 2004.
Today, Project Connect is emulated in over 400 cities across the United States as well as Canada, Puerto Rico and Australia. Once a year over 680 community volunteers partner with government, non-profits, businesses, schools, and the private sector to provide a one-stop shop of health, social, and humanitarian services for struggling Central Oregonians.