A UK center of excellence in rural health receives a grant to increase the number of community health workers

Hazard, K. The University of Kentucky’s Center for Excellence in Rural Health (CERH) ELEVATE CHWs is launching a new program to increase the number of community health professionals in Kentucky by training new community health professionals and providing advanced training to existing professionals. The center received nearly $2.6 million in grant funding from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), an agency of the US Department of Health and Human Services.

ELEVATE (Education, Leadership, Power, Values, Access, Train and Equity) CHWs offer two training tracks. One is for existing community health workers seeking advanced training in specific areas such as behavioral health, disability or emergency preparedness. Another is for adults and high school students who want to earn their first CHW certification. Upon completion of initial community health worker training, students have the opportunity to earn high school and college credits, followed by internships.

UK CERH received official status as a Kentucky training site in 2022 from the Commonwealth of Kentucky before receiving ELEVATE funding. In addition to serving as an internship site, UK CERH acts as an intermediary for other agencies seeking community health worker internships.

“Through training placements, we bring new community health workers into the workforce and provide them with the training and skills they need to succeed in their careers. As an intermediary, we help other agencies retain and grow their CHW workforce, as well as access resources for funding opportunities, tax credits and other incentives,” says the UK. CERH Interdisciplinary Director of Research Melissa Sloan, DSW

“Health disparities and health care workforce shortages have been long-standing issues in Kentucky,” said UK CERH Director Fran Feltner, DNP. Unexpected people in difficult situations. But these same factors also explain the important role of community health workers in community outreach, prevention education, and connecting individuals to care and support services.

Community health workers are recognized for their ability to complement health care services by filling critical gaps in helping people achieve better health and behavioral health. With their extensive knowledge of community resources, community health workers are uniquely placed to address clients’ personal challenges related to health social issues such as food and housing insecurity. They specialize in addressing barriers to health care access and often have specialized training to empower their clients with the knowledge and skills to better manage their health, especially for individuals with chronic illnesses.

As part of the ELEVATE CHWs program, a HRSA Region 4 Community Health Worker Advisory Workgroup will be created. This region includes Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. The Advisory Working Group will assess, compare and define the role of community health workers and identify the skills needed to create a workforce prepared to address health disparities and be prepared to assist vulnerable populations in times of crisis. This task force educates and supports community health workers to become integral members of the health care workforce, even if they are employed outside of health care facilities, retaining community in community health workers.

“We are excited and grateful for this opportunity to move the community health workforce forward in Kentucky,” Feltner said. “We believe the ELEVATE program will improve access to care, strengthen the public health workforce, address health disparities and help underserved populations achieve health equity.

Feltner identified several partners that will help ELEVATE succeed, including Kentucky Homeplace, a long-standing community health worker program in Kentucky. Kentucky Homeplace training curriculum is used during ELEVATE and taught by Kentucky Homeplace staff with extensive experience in the field. Feltner added that there are many partners in the area and across Kentucky who support this initiative. See the complete list of partners and learn more about ELEVATE over hereContact Kyle Burnett, at [email protected].

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