The University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences recently announced a program that will add 35 community health workers to the region to connect patients with resources to help them obtain the care they need.
UT, through its Area Health Education Center program, received $458,000 from the Medicaid Technical Assistance and Policy Program Healthcare Access Initiative to provide scholarship stipends to allow community members to receive the appropriate training to become a community health worker.
“Community health workers are entry-level health practitioners who serve as a liaison between individuals and health-care providers,” said grant administrator Kathy Vasquez, director of the UT and Ohio Statewide Area Health Education Center programs and UT associate vice president for government relations. “Community health workers go by many titles that include care coordinator, navigator or advocate. No matter what they are called, though, they are vital employees who connect individuals and families to health insurance, health information, food, housing and transportation, so that those things do not keep them from obtaining the care they need.”
The Area Health Education Center Partnership for Community Health Workers program is a collaboration among UT’s Area Health Education Center program, the Hospital Council of Northwest Ohio/Northwest Ohio Pathways HUB, Mercy College of Ohio, North Central State College and Care Coordination Systems.
The Healthcare Access Initiative is funded by the Medicaid Technical Assistance and Policy Program through the Ohio Department of Medicaid and administered by the Ohio Colleges of Medicine Government Resource Center. It supports the development, training and retention of health-care practitioners to serve Ohio’s Medicaid population using emerging health-care delivery models and evidenced-based practices.
Scholarship stipends, with commitment to serve Ohio’s Medicaid population, are available and will cover the full cost of the program being conducted by North Central State College. Partial coverage (up to $3,000) for those attending the program through Mercy College of Ohio in Toledo also is available.
Mercy College started a class Aug. 15. North Central State College will offer a class at the Mansfield campus in August and another class on UT Health Science Campus in early 2016.
The certification program will include classroom, laboratory and clinical components designed to prepare students for work in many health-care settings, including an ambulatory care center, a senior outreach program and a pregnancy center.
Course work in the program entails medical terminology, cultural diversity, basic life support, and first aid and community health specific topics such as advocacy, referral processes, documentation, and skills to complete home visits. Practical experiences in community health settings also are part of the program.
Graduates of the program will receive assistance finding a job upon successful completion of the program and certification by the Ohio Board of Nursing. Employers also could be eligible for funds to assist with the cost of creating new community health worker positions and employing workers to fill those positions.
The Northwest Ohio Pathways HUB partners with organizations that hire community health workers. The HUB is focused on finding people at risk for poor health and identifying and reducing barriers to care by addressing social issues and measuring the results.
“Through the Northwest Ohio Pathways HUB, nonprofit organizations that hire community health workers can secure sustainable sources of funding for their care coordination program focused on addressing the social determinants of health,” said Jan Ruma, director of the Northwest Ohio Pathways HUB and vice president of the Hospital Council of Northwest Ohio.
According to national employment data, community health jobs are supposed to increase 21.8 percent through 2020. Annual salaries vary greatly based on the type of employer but average approximately $37,000.
“Community health workers are expected to be in demand in our area in the coming months and years,” said Cheri Nutter, dean of innovative and transitional education at Mercy. “This certification program is helping Ohio create employees for the growing Medicaid population, and Mercy is glad to be partnering with The University of Toledo.”