This is the latest in a series of profiles of community health workers in Connecticut.
Kimberly Streater spends a lot of her working hours at the Stop & Shop on Whalley Avenue in New Haven.
Her job has nothing to do with groceries. Instead, she’s there as a resource for moms, introducing them to stress-management strategies, connecting them to services and assistance, or just serving as a friendly person to listen.
Streater is a community mental health ambassador for the New Haven Mental health Outreach for MotherS (MOMS) Partnership, an innovative program that provides services to address depression and trauma.
Maternal depression is both common and serious, with potentially severe consequences for women and their children. Rates of depression symptoms are especially high among low-income women.
BRINGING CARE OUTSIDE THE CLINIC
MOMS Partnership grew out of an attempt to address maternal depression in low-income women in a more traditional way, by providing treatment in a clinic. The problem was, it was a struggle to get mothers to come in for treatment.
MOMS Partnership took a new approach, providing services in places where moms already live or go, including housing complexes and the grocery store. The program is a collaboration of many agencies in New Haven and addresses a wide range of needs related to health and well-being. It includes parenting classes and stress-management classes to address depression symptoms using a form of therapy found effective for depression.
Streater and her fellow community mental health ambassadors represent a key component of the program: they are community health workers – trusted individuals from the community who build relationships and provide information and connections to others.
Seeking help can be nerve-wracking; Streater and her colleagues can make it less intimidating.
APPROACHABLE AND KNOWLEDGEABLE
Streater is often in Stop & Shop, equipped with books for kids, healthy snacks, and an approachable, friendly demeanor.
Sometimes women stop by to chat in the MOMS Partnership’s hub, a private space within the store.
Other times, she approaches moms, such as the time she heard a child crying in line at the service desk. Streater grabbed two snacks and a book from the hub, found the mother and child, and asked the mom if she’d like to give her daughter a snack.
The issues moms raise vary. Housing is a common challenge; Streater tries to point them in the right direction to have their needs addressed. Other moms are looking for services to help their kids. Sometimes Streater meets women who don’t have custody of their children and want to participate in a parenting class to help regain custody. If she meets a woman who needs a higher level of care or support, Streater refers her to another provider.
ALWAYS A SOURCE OF ADVICE
Streater has been a community mental health ambassador for six years. Before that, she worked for the phone company, but in many ways, she says, she was already doing the work she does for MOMS. She was that parent in the community others came to with questions, the one who always had some advice.
“I live in New Haven,” she said. “This is something that’s not new to me, going out into the community and actually engaging with people.”
When she began working with MOMS, Streater said many people were resistant to talking about mental health or receiving care. Now, however, people approach her and her colleagues, wanting to talk.
“To work in mental health, you really have to have some type of connectedness about you that helps you to engage,” she said. “You have to keep an open mind and you have to be able to connect with all people.”
for more on COMMUNITY HEALTH WORKERS…
Community health workers do many different things across Connecticut.
- Read about a Hartford peer counselor who helps moms breastfeed.
- Read about a New Haven patient navigator who works with uninsured patients.
- Read about a Bridgeport outreach worker and college instructor who explains what makes community health workers unique.
- Read about a community health worker who has made lasting connections in Bridgeport.