Integrating Community Health Workers (CHWs) into Local Public Health Response
Steele County is a rural county in southern Minnesota with a population of 36,576 located approximately one hour south of Minneapolis. Steele County Public Health (SCPH) is conducting a pilot to integrate Community Health Workers (CHWs) into its COVID-19 response and rebuild efforts, and CHW Solutions is providing Technical Assistance on the project. SCPH staff are especially interested in having Spanish- and Somali-speaking CHWs to reach these populations.
In Minnesota, there is Medicaid reimbursement for certificate-holding CHWs delivering health education and self-management skill building training, so SCPH is also interested in piloting if their CHWs can deliver services in a way that makes them eligible for available reimbursements.
Involve CHWs in COVID-19 response and recovery
Devoting funding, time, and other resources to the integration of CHWs in the county's COVID-19 response will set the county up for long-term success with other public health needs. Example activities include:
- Partner with the Minnesota Department of Health to cover the costs of CHW services during the pilot, and confirmed that CHW Solutions also has some funding available for the pilot.
- Involve CHWs with outreach, registration, and other logistics related to COVID-19 vaccination clinics
- Arrange for shared CHW services with HealthFinders Collaborative, a local community-clinic that provides COVID-19 vaccine clinics at mosques, apartment complexes, and other community sites.
- Develop and implement COVID-19 protocols and practices that can be used as templates for other CHW services long-term
Develop CHW and CHW Supervisor role
Developing these roles will enhance Steele County Public Health services to its community long-term. Example activities include:
- Provide mentorship to CHWs and their supervisor
- Train CHWs serving Steele County residents in self-care practices through the self-care curriculum pilot.
Integrate CHWs into Other Public Health Programs
Because CHWs live in the communities they serve, speak the language and understand the socioeconomic and cultural barriers, they can play an important role in planning and implementing strategies and initiatives. Example activities include:
- Develop plans for expanding CHW services to other health services, including home health care, family home visiting, connecting to community resources, WIC, car seat education, dental care connections, breastfeeding, etc.
- Partner with CHWs in Community Health Assessments (CHA) and Community Health Improvement Plans (CHIP), as well we long range goal setting for our agencies.
- Appoint CHWs to community committees on topics like healthy eating, substance abuse prevention, and mental health,
Develop a long-term CHW staffing plan
A long-term staffing plan is crucial to ensuring the work of CHWs during COVID-19 response and recovery is sustainable and applicable to other areas of public health. Example activities include:
- Explore CHW staffing needs with partner and potential partner organizations (community clinics, local health systems, neighboring counties, and others). If the partners agree, develop a shared CHW staffing model
- Identify multilingual Steele County residents interested in the CHW role, including interest in obtaining their CHW certificates
- Meet with neighboring county public health departments to discuss the potential for a shared staffing model for CHW services.