FAQ

Illinois Helps COVID-19

Statewide COVID-19 Responders Group Q&A

Updated: May 27, 2020

 

Medical Volunteer Questions

I am a medical volunteer that wants to help during the COVID-19 response. Where do I register?

All licensed medical volunteers are suggested to register at www.illinoishelps.net. Please ensure the information provided in the system is as accurate as possible in order to run checks against licensure. Future individualized opportunities will be communicated within that system by not only the State of Illinois but by local organizations.

This system is designed to allow individuals to choose an organization to affiliate with locally. However, in the COVID-19 outbreak, the State of Illinois has created a Statewide COVID-19 Responders organization within the Illinois Helps system for state-level missions. We also encourage you to choose to volunteer with other organizations in the Illinois Helps system, as local Medical Reserve Corps, local health departments, hospitals, long term care, and other healthcare facilities may also be in need of your services.

If you are interested in volunteering, you need to add those organizations on your Illinois Helps profile. To do this, please log into your account on Illinoishelps.net. Once logged in, click organization, then choose add to organizations below that. Scroll through the list that may interest you, as you can affiliate with up to 8 organizations at this time. On the right of the name of the organization, you need to click on add to organizations. Adding multiple organization just gives you the ability to volunteer with multiple places. Each organization you affiliate with has different opportunities to help.

I am interested specifically in contact tracing. What opportunities will there be?

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) has created a link for interest in contact tracing at their website https://redcap.dph.illinois.gov/surveys/?s=KWKJL93TM7. Anyone who has not previously signed up specifically for contact tracing in Illinois Helps should now go there. If you have already signed up on Illinois Helps under the Statewide COVID-19 Responders organization and the Contact Tracing Group, we are working to share your information with IDPH and local health departments.  As more information is known about the program, we will communicate with those in this group.

What types of opportunities may I be asked to help with as medical personnel?

The State of Illinois is utilizing Illinois Helps to assist with medical staffing needs in the Statewide COVID-19 Responders Organization. This includes, but is not limited to, alternate care (hospital setting) and alternative housing sites (hotels) throughout the State of Illinois for COVID-19 response. Other organizations in the system are utilizing their personnel for similar opportunities and more.

As the state and local response to the pandemic continues, additional positions will become available. There are potentially other opportunities at state-supported sites in the future. In the future, the State of Illinois anticipates messaging those with vetted profiles in the Statewide COVID-19 Responders Organization about additional opportunities as organizations and local jurisdictions exhaust their available resources and are looking for help.

As these opportunities come up, we will be provided with detailed information about the opportunity. We would then message those in our organization that have had appropriate licensure checked that are within those occupations the option to work with a local organization with a specific need. These individuals would be able to determine if they wish to participate while still maintaining awareness about what state-level missions may come up in the Statewide COVID-19 Responders organization.

Is there an opportunity for me to be paid as a medical volunteer through Illinois Helps? What about expenses?

For certain occupations, there are opportunities to be paid, while some positions will remain volunteer only. Expenses may be covered, as well, depending on the opportunity. Please note, we will only communicate specific opportunities with those that have completed profiles in the system with the occupations that are needed.

What protections are available to qualified medical volunteers that engage in official State of Illinois COVID-19 response efforts?

Executive Order 19 addresses these matters and can be found at: 

https://www2.illinois.gov/Documents/ExecOrders/2020/ExecutiveOrder-2020-19.pdf

Under Executive Order 2020-19, if you are a qualified volunteer and work in an Illinois Healthcare Facility - all as defined by Executive Order 2020-19 through the Illinois Helps system as part of the State's efforts to respond to the COVID-19 emergency, then Executive Order 2020-19 should apply to you.  Because every individual situation is different, the State of Illinois cannot provide individual or personalized legal advice. If you have any questions, consult with your personal attorney.

What if I am busy or unable to respond to a specific opportunity?

Illinois Helps manages a list of volunteers who are willing to volunteer, in this case for COVID-19. Your status and availability as a volunteer may be determined with your hospital/ employer's emergency plan. If the emergency is in your immediate area, you may be required to report to work. Some volunteers may be released from normal duties by their employer. If circumstances permit, and your employer agrees to release you to volunteer, we encourage you to make yourself available as a volunteer when you are called.

If there is a specific opportunity put forward in the COVID-19 response, it will be up to you to determine your availability depending on a number of factors specific to your own situation such as what the request is and what your own comfort level is. Not being available for one date or one specific opportunity does not preclude you from being involved in other future opportunities.

 How long will it be before I hear about the next steps?

Next steps are dependent upon each organization in the Illinois Helps system. For the Statewide COVID-19 Responders Organization that the State of Illinois is administering, the individuals that have their profiles completed, licenses checked if applicable, and possess the occupations needed at the time will be communicated with. Several opportunities have already been communicated for medical personnel such as RNs, LPNs, and CNAs. Opportunities continue to grow and change.    

We will move forward as quickly as we can given the potential missions that present themselves. If you have not yet been contacted, please stay tuned. We know your services are valuable and you may be committed to other places in the interim, which also provides a valuable service to the state and your community. 

There is a problem with my application in the Illinois Helps system.

Please fully complete your profile in Illinois Helps, if you have not already. If you have a medical license, we cannot deploy anyone in the system until they go through an IDPFR or IDPH licensure check. Those license checks may be automatic or manual, depending on the occupation.

There are several common problems that prevent someone’s application from being considered green/100%. All sections, including Identity, Deployment Preferences, Contact, Occupations, Training, Skills and Certifications, Medical History and Background check, must be completed in its entirety. These must be completed by you in the system as we cannot do this on your behalf.  These are examples of the most common problems within profiles:

Identity section: Not providing your social security number correctly. This is required to check automatically with the IDPFR system. For security purposes, we cannot see the number on the administrative side in the system. Please clear it out and reenter as one way to check. 

Occupations section: Even if the profile is at 100% complete, some credentials may show within that section as “needs attention” because the licensure information contained within is incomplete such as a license number, issuing state, and expiration date. This is especially important for our medical volunteers! Every question in there works together to determine an Emergency Credential Level (ECL) as part of the system licensure check. Please fill out the occupations section entirely so that you can get to ECL level 3 or above, as this is the pool we are currently working with for medical opportunities. 

Background Check section: Not agreeing to a background check.

Name: Make sure whatever name you use in your profile exactly matches your license information entered in the occupation section to include middle initial or hyphenated name, for example. If you need your name adjusted in the Illinois Helps system to match your license, send us an email and we can assist.

The best way to ensure everything matches between the Illinois Helps system and licensure if regulated by IDPFR is to first check the IDPFR website at  https://ilesonline.idfpr.illinois.gov/DFPR/Lookup/LicenseLookup.aspx and use the information as it is presented there to match in Illinois Helps.

If you have specific problems about the application that you cannot address on your own, please contact us at illinois.helps@illinois.gov but in the interest of time, please double check that you checked above first.

What if I allowed my licensure to expire or I am not licensed in Illinois?

In the COVID-19 outbreak, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) has a number of emergency rules to renew expired licenses quickly as well as fees associated with this. IDFPR has also allowed for Temporary Practice Permits for certain professions that are licensed in other states for no fee. Please see their website at https://www.idfpr.com/COVID-19.asp for additional details.

Non-medical volunteer questions

What if I don’t have a medical background but want to volunteer during COVID-19?

There are also additional volunteer opportunities. The website www.serve.illinois.gov is the state’s Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service, Serve Illinois. There will be consistently updated opportunities to volunteer that are received by the state. Please remember the most important thing we can do to stop the spread of COVID-19 is to stay home and practice good social distancing.

Where can I find additional information about donations?

Please note at this time, the donation requests are limited to specific Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for first responders and do not include fabric/homemade masks at present. To donate PPE, please email ppe.donations@illinois.gov. To inquire about other donation opportunities, please email ceo.businessdonations@illinois.gov.

 On March 26, the Governor announced a cooperative fund with the United Way of Illinois and the Alliance of Illinois Community Foundations. The Illinois COVID-19 Response Fund is raising funds from individual, corporate, and foundation donors to be dispersed to nonprofit organizations across the state serving individuals, families, and communities hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic. The website to donate is www.ilcovidresponsefund.org

What if I want to do business with the State of Illinois during COVID-19?

The Illinois Helps system does not deal with businesses. This site is only for individuals to register their knowledge, skills, and abilities. If you are a business wanting to sell to the state of Illinois, please contact covid.procurement@illinois.gov with your offer as we cannot forward those from this system.

 

 

General Frequently Asked Questions:

What is the Emergency System for Advanced Registration of Volunteer Health Professionals (ESAR-VHP)?

The mission of the ESAR-VHP program is to establish a national interoperable network of state based volunteer registration systems for managing volunteers at all tiers of response. Each system verifies the identity, credentials, certifications, licenses, and hospital privileges of health professionals who volunteer to provide health services during a public health emergency.

What is Illinois HELPS?

Your ESAR-VHP system is an initiative to pre-register, manage, and mobilize clinical and non-clinical volunteers to help in responding to all types of disasters. The volunteer management system is part of a nation-wide effort to make sure that volunteer professionals can be quickly identified and their credentials checked so that they can be properly utilized in response to a public health emergency or disaster.

What are the functions of the Illinois HELPS?

Information pertaining to individual volunteers such as contact information, licensure, credentials, training history, response experience and skills is collected and maintained. It also serves as the system for identifying, activating, and deploying volunteers during disasters, and functions as a communication tool for providing volunteers with information about training and exercises.

How do I register?

Registering is as simple as logging on to the web site and entering the information requested. Select "Register Now" button on the home page to begin the registration process. If you are an existing member of a participating program, please indicate your participation in that program during the registration process. You should have information about your applicable license and contact information available in order to complete the registration process. You may start and stop the registration process at any time. Simply log in to the system using the username and password you have created to complete any sections you have not finished.

Is my information safe?

Every possible step relating to data integrity and security is taken by the staff in order to prevent abuse and protect participants' privacy. Please review the Privacy Policy and contact us if you would like further information.

Who will have access to my personal data?

You, your local volunteer program administrator, specified staff at local Emergency Preparedness centers, and the vendor contracted to maintain the Site and its services will have access to the data. Anyone with access to the data will be trained in proper security and privacy procedures. Your information will be contained within a central, secure database. Your information will ONLY be used to engage you in activities related to your local volunteer program, including recruitment for participation in a disaster drill or exercise, to provide you with program information or to request your assistance at the time of a large-scale disaster or public health emergency.

I have already started registering with this System. How do I complete the registration process?

If you have started but have not completed registering, you will need to log in with the username and password you initially provided when you started the registration process. If your account is not in the system, you will need to start the registration process from the beginning.

How will I update or change my information?

During registration, you will set a secure and unique user name and password. You will need this information to reenter on the website to update your contact information, obtain general program information, or to register for the program's online training courses.

How often should I update my information?

We request that you update your information any time you have a change in status. In addition, we recommend that you check your profile and update as needed every six (6) months. Licensure information must be kept up to date or your volunteer participation may be limited. The volunteer database may contact you in the event of an emergency, so, it is important that you keep your contact information up to date in order to be contacted if needed.

Should I join a local Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) or other volunteer group in addition to registering with Illinois HELPS?

Most emergencies occur locally and on a smaller scale. Therefore, it is important that local organizations have their own volunteer base. Those organizations will also be able to access state, regional and national volunteer registries to supplement their local forces during a larger event. To be a volunteer locally for a particular organization such as a MRC, you will need to sign up with that unit and register with the system. Registering with the ESAR-VHP system will allow you to indicate that you are registered as a volunteer locally. Registering locally will provide you opportunities to participate in additional training and exercises, and perform non-emergency volunteer roles locally.

What is the Medical Reserve Corps?

Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) is part of a nationwide initiative to pre-register, manage, and mobilize volunteers to help their communities respond to all types of disasters. MRC units also help to foster disaster preparedness on a local level and serve as Ambassadors to the Office of the United States Surgeon General in the implementation of the Surgeon General's Health Initiatives. MRCs serve to unite local health professionals and other individuals with relevant health-related skills in their community. The structure of each MRC unit varies, depending on its own unique requirements and on the needs of the people and community that it serves and will aid the local, existing community emergency medical response systems. To obtain more information regarding a MRC program, or to locate a MRC unit in your area, you may access their website at https://mrc.hhs.gov .

Who can volunteer?

Anyone can volunteer. An emphasis is currently being placed on the recruitment of licensed medical and healthcare volunteers that will satisfy clinical needs and provide surge capacity for public health emergencies. However, volunteers who do not have any medical training are welcomed and are encouraged to register. There will be a need for volunteers with all types of skills and expertise, such as those who are skilled in: interpretation (languages and hearing impaired); administration; transportation training; provision of day care; security; computers; clerical work; data entry; and construction. All volunteers are valued, even if you have no specific qualifications other than the willingness to help.

What is required for participation?

You must first register with the program. Your local program administrator for your area may contact you about their expectations for participation. If and when activation becomes necessary, you will be contacted through the system and asked about your availability. All volunteers can accept or refuse a request for help. No matter what the extent of the need is, these are voluntary deployments and you are not required to participate.

How will my credentials be verified?

Credential verification allows the system to identify volunteers who have the qualifications needed for the current emergency. Obtaining, verifying, and assessing qualifications of a healthcare professional are aspects of credential verification. Only volunteer healthcare professionals with verified credentials will be utilized to provide patient care, treatment and services in/for a healthcare organization during an emergency event. The appropriate licensing board will be utilized to verify the status of licenses.

Under what conditions will I be contacted to provide emergency services?

You may be contacted if local, regional, state and/or interstate volunteer resources are not sufficient to meet the need for response and recovery efforts resulting from a natural or man-made emergency.

Do volunteers only help in disaster time (during emergency situations)?

Although the volunteers are needed to respond to disasters or emergencies, you may be asked to volunteer for a non-emergency event, especially if you join a local MRC.

If I register, am I committed to respond when called? What if I have obligations that do not allow me to volunteer at the time of an emergency?

Registration in no way commits a volunteer to respond. It is understood that personal circumstances can prevent you from volunteering. Your service is voluntary and you are not legally obligated to assist. The decision to volunteer when you are called to an emergency is up to you. As a volunteer, you should expect to be called to help in public health emergencies at any time. You are encouraged to have a preparedness plan. This preparedness plan will not only help to protect you and your family, but it just might enable you to fulfill your desire to volunteer and assist should an emergency occur.

I am a retired healthcare professional. Am I still eligible to register?

Absolutely! The value of retired medical personnel for their wealth of knowledge and experience is well recognized. Retired healthcare professionals are more likely to be available during a public health emergency, as currently licensed and employed professional may be needed at their place of employment during a disaster.

If I am not currently employed, but keep my license current, may I register?

Yes, for many of the same reasons as the person that is retired. Licensed healthcare professionals are needed and are strongly encouraged to register.

May I register if I'm not currently licensed or practicing in a medical field?

Yes. There will be many needs for unlicensed health professionals, as well as a need for those without medical training who may serve as general volunteers. Whether you are actively licensed, a student, retired health professional, or someone with an interest in volunteering during a health emergency, you are encouraged to register.

I do not have a medical background; can I still register and volunteer?

Yes, individual citizens interested in volunteering during a disaster are necessary to supporting a public health disaster. The needs of potential assignments are not limited to only healthcare professionals. The site is open to any medical, public health professional/student as well as non-medical individuals.

What if I am already working at a local hospital or currently obligated to serve in a branch of the military?

If you have prior volunteering commitments, military or National Guard responsibilities, or work commitments, please inform us of this in the prior emergency response commitments section of your profile. The registry provides a list of volunteers who are willing to volunteer. Your status and availability as a volunteer may be determined with your hospital/ employer's emergency plan. If the emergency is in your immediate area, you may be required to report to work. Some volunteers may be released from normal duties by their employer. If circumstances permit, and your employer agrees to release you to volunteer, we encourage you to make yourself available as a volunteer when you are called.

I have an out-of-state license. Am I still eligible to register in the volunteer register?

Yes, out-of-state volunteers are accepted in the system. Currently, however, the system is only verifying in-state licenses. Due to the inability to verify your medical license, you may be approved as a non-medical group member.

Can I specify that I want to volunteer in my own community or outside my community?

Yes. You can indicate that you are only willing to volunteer in your local area and/or that you are willing to volunteer in the event of a larger emergency that occurs in other communities, statewide, or even in other states that may require your assistance.

Will I be able to or asked to volunteer in other counties and/or states?

Efforts will be made to schedule volunteers close to their communities when possible. You may be contacted when outside assistance is needed in other locations during statewide emergencies. Volunteers may also be asked to assist in other states throughout the nation and during federal emergencies. deployment will vary depending on the event and volunteers may decline to participate in any event. Volunteers who do accept an out of state or federal assignment may be asked to provide additional information in the registry.

What are conditions like in the area I am going and what types of risks may I be exposed to during an emergency?

Volunteers will be needed in different types of emergencies including floods, hurricanes, tornados, large fires and events that may be chemical, biological or radiological in nature. Emergency situations pose danger risks and it is important to understand that responding to an emergency event can be mentally and physically tiring. Conditions in the affected area could be very primitive, and you could be working in an area of severely limited resources and no creature comforts. The climate will be dictated by the season in which the event is occurring. Volunteers will receive information about the event and any risks associated with the event. Volunteers will not be asked to attempt or to perform any work for which he/she is not trained or prepared. Each volunteer must ask themselves, "What types of incidents am I willing to respond to?" prior to accepting a volunteer assignment.

Once I've registered, how should I prepare for deployment? What should I bring with me?

You will be provided a recommended deployment list prior to any deployment.

What kind of credentials will I have to provide during a deployment?

All volunteers must provide valid identification. Those working in a professional capacity will also have to provide their current professional license.

I registered several days ago, why haven't I been called up yet?

Registering at this website allows you to be called upon to assist when needed. Although you have not received an assignment that does not mean you will not in the future. Requests for assistance arrive from local Emergency Operations Centers and we will utilize this registry to identify potential volunteers to assist. A disaster is a local event and local volunteer networks are utilized first before calling upon volunteers outside of those networks.

Are there any specific health concerns (e.g., vaccinations) that are required for me to participate?

No prior vaccinations are required for volunteers. However, in the event of certain emergencies (e.g., pandemic influenza, bioterrorism) where a medical countermeasure is available you may receive the countermeasure if needed.

Are there any provisions for compensating me for time lost from work or other expenses?

Currently, no provisions exist for compensating volunteers for time lost from work, mileage, meal costs, etc. However, in the event of an emergency, such provisions may become available, but they are not defined at this time.

If I volunteer, will there be help available to take care of my family?

At this time there are no provisions in place for the care of families of volunteers. You are strongly encouraged to put an emergency plan in place now, to ensure the safety of your own loved ones in the event of an emergency event.

FAQ Disclaimer

These FAQs are for informational purposes only. Nothing within these FAQs is meant to provide specific legal guidance or advice to any person. Rather, these FAQs are meant to serve as an assessment tool for individuals who are considering participation in the Volunteer Registry. Readers should consult with their own attorneys about these laws and their applicability to particular situations or organizations.

Questions?

If you did not see your question in the list above or if you have a general question please contact us. For questions regarding volunteering, you may also email illinois.helps@illinois.gov.