Providence Health Brings CDU Into Partnership To Train Community Health Workers Around Los Angeles

December 9, 2019

This story ran in the KHTS Newsroom on December 9, 2019

Providence is developing a Community Health Worker Training Academy in partnership with CDU and two low-cost clinics in the Los Angeles area to help link vulnerable populations to resources like food and health care.

The program is funded by a two-year $649,996 grant from the California Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development’s reinvestment grants program. The grant is set to fund the creation of the facility, with programs expected to begin in 2022, according to Providence.

Plans call for partnering with Charles R. Drew University of Medicine & Science in Willowbrook, Harbor Community Clinic in San Pedro and the San Fernando Community Health Center.

“The role of the community health worker is expanding because their work truly enhances patient care and improves outcomes, especially among the most vulnerable in our neighborhoods,” said Justin Joe, director of community health investment for Providence. “We’re very excited to work with Charles Drew University and our partnering clinics to lead this expansion of a new and critically important healthcare profession.”

The partnership is creating a workforce development program in the university’s School of Medicine and Science for community health workers. Training will provide entry-level workers with a formal educational program and offer academic credit and opportunities for career development. In addition to classroom learning, academy participants are expected to be placed in paid internships at hospitals and other clinical sites, including Providence hospitals, according to officials.

“The Community Health Worker Academy housed at the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science is an important opportunity to develop state-of-the-art training for CHWs and to build a regional approach to expansion with this workforce that serves a variety of needs of under-resourced communities,” said Hector Balcazar, dean of the College of Science and Health and Sheba George of the College of Medicine in a joint statement.

The health workers will be integrated into the teams in partnering clinics and will help patients navigate resources such as CalFresh, Covered CA and Medi-Cal. One goal is to improve access to preventive and medical care services rather than the use of costly hospital emergency care in nonemergency situations.

“CDU has a long track record of working toward addressing health disparities and the development of the workforce. Providence Health & Services, Southern California, is an ideal partner because it has a history of working with CHWs in many different settings and we now have the experience of working together to strengthen the opportunities for advancing the CHW role in clinical settings. We hope to determine the exact mix of competence, roles and qualities of CHWs that can be applied to clinical settings and medical homes to improve health outcomes in the community,” Balcazar said.

The new academy is expected to help workers attain job security through skill development, career growth opportunities and long-term employment in the field. At the same time, the trained workers will help improve health outcomes in the communities they serve by guiding their patients to the appropriate resources. The program is also building the infrastructure to create a pipeline that integrates community workers with more organizations in the Los Angeles area.

Providence and CDU plan to expand by connecting with more clinics and hospital partners in the region, intending to continue the academy beyond the two-year grant period. Cedars-Sinai Medical Center recently contributed to the project to fund additional learning modules, beyond what is funded by the state to broaden the range of curriculum modules implemented at the academy.