Makin’ It Happen is taking the opportunity in 2022 to highlight the work of our incredible partners. This month we spoke with the Manchester Health Department’s Community Health Worker team that is working in collaboration with the Manchester Police Department. This innovative partnership will improve the overall well-being of some of the most marginalized members of our community. We are excited to share more information with you and celebrate Manchester’s AMAZING Community Health Workers team!
The City of Manchester Health Department (MHD) is an innovative local health department that aims “to improve the health of individuals, families, and the community through disease prevention, health promotion, and protection from environmental threats.” MHD works across its branches and with other community partners to improve the public’s health.
MHD has long realized the value of adding a Community Health Worker to its workforce. In 2020, the City of Manchester added an official job classification for a Community Health Worker position in the City’s employment complement. The first Community Health Workers (CHWs) hired at MHD were utilized to provide COVID-19 prevention and response efforts, such as basic needs support (i.e., food, rental assistance, referrals to support services, etc.) for families on isolation and quarantine. CHWs also worked at vaccination clinics to assist with reaching diverse populations and ensuring services are both culturally and linguistically appropriate.
Today, MHD is scaling up CHW (Community Health Workers) efforts in a partnership with the Manchester Police Department to address public safety and health issues within the City’s 12 Wards. The CHWs will primarily assist the MPD in addressing repeat “check condition” calls for service, of which most of these calls are more related to health, social and economic issues than crime or violence. The scope of the positions will work with a Coordinator at the MPD to identify calls for service that would benefit from care coordination and case management support by a CHW. Additionally, CHWs will also be responsible for increasing neighborhood-based resident engagement via improvement projects and events. These efforts are supported by the American Rescue Plan Act funds over the next 5 years.
Nationally, Community Health Workers have been mostly utilized for health promotion and chronic disease management, such as providing home visits for individuals with diabetes. The Manchester Health Department’s approach is brand new in that they are focused on creating an integrated response mechanism to address both public health and public safety concerns with a team of CHWs.
The team that MHD is creating is motivated by compassion. The team has the desire to assist those in need, leading them to work for equity and social justice or equal access to essential health resources, such as housing, healthy food, education, employment, and health care. The CHW team will act as advocates to speak up for a cause or policy or on someone else’s behalf with the hope of promoting health, improving the conditions that support wellness in local communities, and supporting public safety.
In addition to working directly with the MPD, the CHW team will:
- Serve as a City point of contact for policy makers and residents with neighborhood concerns, such as crime and safety issues.
- Assist residents in linking with services and local resources to meet their needs, such as food, jobs, and health care; and
- Connect with community groups to support neighborhood enhancement and engagement projects, such as clean-up or block party events.
The Community Health Workers can service the entire City. All twelve wards of the city are represented, and priority is given to residents in certain Census Tracts due to their status in the city’s development index as dictated by the project’s funding source. The CHW Program will not have eligibility criteria, such as income or age. Care coordination services by the CHW team include but are not limited to access to basic resources, such as food, navigating health care and other support services, assistance with housing and safety concerns, and help with enrolling in programs/services.
The Program is being established in phases – phase 1 (our current phase) is focused on training and policy development, as well as defining our collaborative workflow and process with the MPD for care coordination to address the “check condition” calls for service. Additionally, the team is proactively outreaching to neighborhood groups to identify concerns and opportunities. This work will consume most of the first year of the Program. Phase 2 will be initiated in year 2 of the Program, which begins in July 2022. This phase of the Program will expand the team’s scope of work to include referrals to care coordination services from other agencies, as well as self-referrals. Once we are in Phase 2 of the Program communication materials will be disseminated broadly with CHW Ward assignments and contact information.
Thus far, MHD successfully hired a supervisor position and 5 CHWs; the goal is to hire up to 12 CHWs total. MPD has also hired a Coordinator to work directly with the CHW team in helping to create appropriate referral and case management pathways of support. The new CHW team is multicultural and collectively speaks 12 languages, in addition to English (Spanish, French, Nepali, Hindi, Swahili, Kinyarwanda, Kirundi, Lingala, Mandinka, Fula, Wolof, and Yoruba). While this program is very new and operations started mid-December of 2021, they have started working with the different communities in the city. The CHW program has been helping with setting up healthy corner stores, attending to residents who recently have overdosed and people within their networks, and have started participating in programs and activities provided by some community watch groups, such as the Somerville Action group, Oak Hill Area group, and NeighborWorks. They have also started working with an Environmental Justice Group to help tackle environmental issues, such as lead poisoning prevention and education. Some of the CHWs, who have been managing cases as CHWs with other organizations, have continued to manage those cases under our programs.
Although they have not yet worked with the community long, the CHW Program’s most prominent challenge is a lack of resources to address complex economic and health issues. There are times when they want to help residents and the resources are not available. For instance, Substance Use Disorder and homelessness are key issues for residents and due to lack of resources, there is not always a simple solution. Through this Program, the CHW team aims to use their collective experience to inform systems change and improvements.
Makin’ It Happen, and the Substance Use Disorder Collaborative of the Greater Manchester Region look forward to working with the CHW team and this effort within the city to identify need and develop solutions together. To learn more about the Manchester Health Department and the Community Health Worker program please visit https://www.manchesternh.gov/Departments/Health.