News Release

COVID response grants will fund community health workers for local health departments

HARTFORD, Conn. (Aug. 11, 2020) – The Connecticut Health Foundation announced plans to support local health departments in hiring community health workers to assist in their COVID-19 response work and address the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on people of color.

The foundation has committed $1.15 million to support the hiring and training of community health workers. The Connecticut COVID-19 Charity Connection, known as 4-CT, is increasing the scope of the project with an additional $743,500. The funding is expected to support 40 community health workers to complement the work of local health departments in cities across Connecticut.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has magnified the already-deep racial and ethnic health disparities in Connecticut and is having a disproportionate effect on Black and Hispanic state residents,” said Patricia Baker, president and CEO of the Connecticut Health Foundation. “It is critical that the people most affected by COVID-19 receive the information and support they need, and receive it from trusted sources. Community health workers can help to make sure that the response to the pandemic is as effective and equitable as possible.”

Community health workers are frontline health workers who serve as a bridge between their communities and the health care and social service systems. They are typically trusted members of their communities and often share a common background – such as race, education, language, or neighborhood – with the people they serve. Extensive research has found that community health worker services can improve health outcomes and help patients receive appropriate care and connect to other resources.

The Connecticut Health Foundation is working with local health departments to identify needs and ways community health workers can complement their work. The foundation is inviting departments to apply and prioritizing departments based on the number of local COVID cases and the proportion of people of color in the population. Services community health workers could provide during the pandemic include:

  • Providing community members with information and education on treatment, testing, prevention, and, when appropriate, vaccines.
  • Conducting brief, virtual assessments to identify the most pressing needs of community members referred by contact tracers to help them access local resources that meet their needs.
  • Assisting individuals in developing strategies to maintain quarantine or social distancing and adhering to treatment protocols.

“Community health workers are skilled at engaging their communities and meeting people where they are to help them find the most feasible solution,” Baker said. “They can work with people to help prevent the spread of the virus, whether that means wearing masks, working with contact tracers, finding safe places to isolate and recover, or finding resources to meet basic needs.”

“Community health workers represent an innovative solution to the puzzle of how our state can get high-quality care to the people that need it the most,” said 4-CT CEO Ted Yang. “4-CT is proud to support this ambitious initiative and we look forward to further strengthening our role in promoting public health.”

The funding will also support technical assistance from Katharine London, a principal at Commonwealth Medicine – the public service consulting and operations division of UMass Medical School – and staff from the Penn Center for Community Health Workers at the University of Pennsylvania.

To learn more about community health workers, see the report “Understanding Community Health Workers: Who They Are and Why They Matter for Connecticut.”

The foundation’s recommendations for ensuring that the state’s COVID-19 response does not leave anyone behind is available here.