Community Health Worker Pilot Presents on Lessons Learned

Community Health Worker Pilot Presents on Lessons Learned

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The Health & Medicine Policy Research Group, Community Memorial Foundation, and Healthy Communities Foundation hosted the “Community Health Worker Model: Lessons Learned and Impact in the Western Suburbs” webinar on December 4th.

As the Community Health Worker (CHW) pilot heads into its third year, speakers shared their experiences and insights since its inception. As trusted community members in Chicago’s western suburbs, the CHWs have served as vital connectors between community residents and local and health social service providers, especially during this challenging year.

Five organizations participate in the CHW pilot: Aging Care Connections, Alivio Medical Center, BEDS Plus, Healthcare Alternative Systems, and Mujeres Latinas en Acción. The pilot is coordinated by the Health and Medicine Policy Research Group, which led the effort for Illinois to adopt the state’s first CHW legislation, and the Sinai Urban Health Institute leads the program evaluation.   

Greg DiDomenico, President of Community Memorial Foundation, and Maria Pesqueira, President of Healthy Communities Foundation–who collaboratively funded the pilot since 2018–welcomed webinar participants. Due to the drastic demographic shifts that the area has experienced in the past decade, they described how CHWs’ presence in the western suburbs has been crucial in connecting Latinx and immigrant communities to bilingual/bicultural social and health services.

Margie Schaps, Executive Director, and Angela Eastlund, Workforce Policy Analyst, at Health & Medicine Policy Research Group, provided an overview about CHWs, explained the pilot framework, and highlighted the critical role they have played during the pandemic.

Banita McCarn, Sinai Urban Institute, talked about the pilot’s evaluation model and roadmap for reporting and measurement.  

Webinar participants also heard from two CHWs and CHW supervisors Irasema Soriano, Mujeres Latinas en Acción, and Alyson Scanlon, Aging Care Connections. They shared personal stories of their community experiences since the pilot began and how the pilot organizations have collaborated.

“Prior to the pandemic, we were still in the midst of establishing ourselves in the communities we were serving. We realized how important it is to create a connection and trust with the community,” said Jocelyn Moreno, CHW from Mujeres Latinas en Acción. “There was a lot of misinformation and fear in our communities—undocumented and mixed-status families…When the pandemic hit, we were thankful for our outreach efforts because we realized how important our roles were.”

Miriam Martinez, CHW at BEDS Plus, shared, “I focused initially on outreach and to connect clients to community resources, like rent assistance which we offer. A lot of the community didn’t know we offered that—they thought we focused on just offering shelter, and we are so much more than that.” She adds, “The pilot has helped me grow by giving me the opportunity to network with my fellow CHWs. I am a link to what my agency offers, but I am a link to what those agencies offer, too.”

Leticia Boughton Price from Illinois CHW Association talked about opportunities for individuals and organizations to get involved in policy advocacy for CHWs in Illinois.

You can view a recording of the event here.

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