Southwest Washington Accountable Community of Health (SWACH) just completed training of thirty (30) Community-based Health Workers (CHWs) and Peers.
Common Principles and Practices of CHW/Peers training took place virtually via Zoom, from October 27-November 19, 2020. Workforce development is a key part of SWACH’s goals, as part of the Medicaid Transformation Project.
The eight-session training covered such topics as the Introduction to the Peers/CHW Profession, Intro to Popular Education, Trauma-informed Care, Social Determinants of Health, Cross-Cultural Skills, Community Engagement, and Self-Care, Ethics, and Boundaries.
Community Health Workers and Peer Supporters are champions for systems changes that connect community members with needed supports and services. These important professionals bridge the gap between social workers and healthcare providers, advancing health equity in the process. The result is improved public health for all; studies underscore the value of CHWs and Peer Providers, who are powerful health equity change agents in the communities they serve.
SWACH’s Clinical and Community Linkages Director Eric McNair Scott says, “We are crystal clear that it’s the community-based workforce that’s going to be the real champions and drivers of the systems change that we need to support people in their whole health needs. That means it’s not just medical care, but also social supports, mental health, and substance use needs that must be addressed. We know that people are not accessing those services, because they are so complex. They’re siloed and fragmented. So we need an army of CHWs who can come alongside folks and are highly skilled around key competencies that make a CHW really effective.”
Lead trainer and facilitator, Beth Poteet, MSW, says, “The goal of this training was to support the CHW workforce and to keep building on the skills they already have in working with the community. I think when we can support community-based workforces with training and proper organizational support and compensation for the important work they do, everyone benefits.”
Timberly Zeller is a Community Health Worker with Lifeline Connections. She is based in PeaceHealth Southwest Washington Medical Center, where she works with patients whose next step will be treatment for substance use disorder. Zeller says, “Being part of this training was so worthwhile. I’ve made connections that I know I’ll be using to help clients with warm hand-offs and providing them with more support. Learning more about the HealthConnect Hub was especially useful. I think the hub is amazing. The more agencies we have with the Hub, and the more CHWs we have trained, the better everyone who needs these services will be – and faster! I know I’d have gotten healthy more quickly with this kind of support in place. It’s fantastic.”
Zeller’s passion for her work and desire to learn more is common among CHWs, Poteet says. “Right now, particularly during COVID, these folks are working really hard; they are frontline workers, especially related to public health and mental health right now. They are the unsung heroes!”