Raising Up a Culturally Conscious Voice: Behavioral Health Training for Community Health Workers
Every day we are confronted with the increasing cultural diversity of the people we serve and the need to manage not only behavioral health issues, but physical health issues as well. Training behavioral health providers to think about whole health and wellness approaches is important, but an additional step many providers are taking is expanding their team to include community health workers (CHWs).
Sometimes known as promotoras, peer health educators or lay health advocates, community health workers are members of the community who support health care delivery. The training requirements vary from state to state, but community health workers provide direct services such as blood pressure checks, STD checks and chronic disease management support, as well as helping to connect people to community resources. Most importantly, in our diverse cultural contexts, CHWs are intimately familiar with the local cultural and societal norms and serve as a trusted link between community members and health care providers.
In a recent webinar, Community Health Workers: A Culturally Conscious Voice for Integrated Care, Brandi Whisler, the Director of Integrated Healthcare Operations at Valle del Sol, a primary care and behavioral health services provider, joined me to discuss the grant-driven implementation of community health workers in their service team. She explained how Valle del Sol’s four community health workers are building relationships with providers and helping them treat patients in culturally appropriate ways. They work alongside peer support staff to provide care for both body and mind. Community health workers provide services in community settings, but through the use of electronic health records, they can provide a continuity of care between the doctor’s office and the patient’s home. After seeing the success of the community health worker program, Valle del Sol has moved on to focusing on sustainable funding beyond the initial grant for the program.
As Brandi’s story demonstrates, the increasing need for integrated care for mind and body has put community health workers in a unique and promising position to help racial, ethnic and other communities that have traditionally underutilized health care services and to help teams provide more sensitive and comprehensive care.
For more information, join me at NatCon15 and attend my session, “Case Management to Care Management: Trends and Lessons 2015,” or visit: www.thenationalcouncil.org/training-courses/community-health-worker-training.