The Community Health Worker Collaborative is developing Community Health Worker (CHW) job training, job placement, and services for chronically underserved populations in Humboldt, Del Norte, and Trinity Counties. Presently, the CHW Collaborative includes organizations that serve people experiencing Substance Use Disorder, at-risk youth, people with extremely low or no incomes, black, Indigenous, and people of color , LGBTQIA+ identifying people, and people experiencing mental illness and homelessness.
The Collaborative will provide culturally appropriate job training through CR Workforce and Community Education, mentorship with our collaborative partners, job placement and leadership in the future Community Health Worker Cooperative, and CHW services for people in need, through our collaborative partners.
The Community Health Worker Collaborative welcomes program development input from people with lived experiences of health disparities from Substance Use Disorder, at-risk youth, extremely low or no incomes, black, Indigenous and people of color, LGBTQIA+ identifying people, and people experiencing mental illness and homelessness. We also welcome new collaborators from organizations that serve our communities.
Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you'd like to participate in developing a caring, compassionate program that employs people in need to care for people in need.
Community Health Workers
Community Health Workers are trusted members of their communities who, because of their relationships, are able to effectively provide education and support to improve the health of individuals and their communities as a whole. Many factors contribute to people’s health status, but having access to care and using preventive services are critical to narrowing the health disparities gap. Community Health Workers can help people overcome barriers to health coverage and care by connecting them to a range of health care and social services. In this way, Community Health Workers serve as a bridge between community members and the services they need.
Community Health Workers are not counselors or highly trained professionals like social workers, medical professionals, or police, but rather members of their communities (i.e. people who have experienced homelessness, SUD, mental illness, etc.) who want to help their communities create and gain access to non-stigmatized resources for health and wellness. Becoming a CHW is a job opportunity for people whose expertise is in their lived experience, and whose motivation is compassion.
The Collaborative empowers people across communities to exchange care with one another in the form of skills, knowledge, resources, or whatever it is that they need or have to offer. Sometimes we find ourselves in the role of needing care and sometimes we are capable of giving it. Both are necessary in the process of healing.
Who We Are
The CHW Collaborative includes many of the area’s established leaders already working on these issues.
Open Door Community Health Centers is the area’s largest healthcare provider, and saw more than 65,000 unique patients in 2018. They provide an average of 800 patients with Medication Assisted Treatment for substance use disorder at any given time.
College of the Redwoods Workforce and Community Education (WCE) partners with the community to contribute to the economic vitality of the region, provides workforce training to support local employers' needs, and provides lifelong learning opportunities within the District.
Yurok Tribal Wellness Court provides a path to healing for non-violent Yurok offenders affected by drugs and/or alcohol through an intensive substance abuse treatment program to improve family, community, and cultural involvement, to promote healthy life choices, and to reduce criminal recidivism.
Wiyot Tribe The mission of the Wiyot Tribe is to exercise our tribal rights and promote our common welfare, to establish the supreme law of the Tribe, to provide for and protect our sovereign right to exercise self-government pursuant to our own laws, to protect and develop our lands and resources, and to promote and safeguard our aboriginal rights as Wiyot people.
Native American Pathways is dedicated to the achievement, health and happiness of community members on and beyond the Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation.
Arcata Police Department’s Juvenile Diversion Program works with at-risk youth and families to provide them with opportunities and resources in the community. The program’s focus is to keep at-youth in school and out of the Juvenile Justice System.
Eureka City Councilmember Leslie Castellano works directly with the Eureka Police Department and with people experiencing homelessness.
Humboldt Area Center for Harm Reduction provides comprehensive community-wide education programs, trainings & workshops; advocacy, empowerment, and support for drug users and other high-risk communities; overdose prevention; direct services, counseling, and referrals; safe injection supplies; and advocate for more humane drug policy.
AJ’s Living provides a broad spectrum of services in a peer-to-peer supportive living environment for individuals living with Substance Use Disorders.
Hmong Community Representative of Del Norte & Humboldt County Pata Vang is an Associate Clinical Social Worker who works as a Behavioral Health Clinic at Open Door Eureka Pregnancy Services. Pata is passionate about advocacy, social justice, and building stronger, healthier communities.
Middleway Network fosters the creation of new, free wellness training and educational resources for all people, giving special attention to underserved populations.
Cooperation Humboldt brought these organizations together, funded the inception of the CHW Collaborative with support from Humboldt Area Foundation, and is coordinating the Human Centered Design process in collaboration with ThinkPlace.
The Collaborative was originally established to address a specific problem, and has quickly grown in vision and scope. The original problem was that when a person calls Open Door Community Health Centers to enroll in their Medication Assisted Treatment program for opioid use disorder, the wait time from that first phone call to the start of treatment can be up to two weeks, which is too long. Open Door is the area’s largest healthcare provider, and the only provider for low-income and uninsured people, but here aren’t enough social workers, clinicians, or counselors to meet people’s most basic needs for assistance gaining access to treatment. Many of the barriers to access do not require the intervention of a fully trained professional. People need help filling out paperwork, getting to and from clinic appointments, and regaining their physical and mental health by connecting with meaningful activities in non-stigmatized environments during and after treatment. In dialogue with Open Door, Cooperation Humboldt identified those gaps in care as being perfect places for caring, minimally-trained community members to step in to offer assistance, and the CHW Collaborative was born.
Since inception, the vision and scope of the project expanded quickly, and many of the key institutions responsible for health equity in Humboldt, Del Norte, and Trinity counties joined the Collaborative. By engaging in a Human Centered Design process with the support of ThinkPlace, Cooperation Humboldt identified the space for CHW services to address a wide range of unmet needs in collaboration with many of the area’s primary care providers for underserved populations, and clarity around the underlying problem emerged: The burden of care for the people in the greatest need of care is place upon an over-extended health care system, a law enforcement system that is neither designed nor intended to address health issues, and a Department of Health and Human Services that is crippled by budget cuts and bureaucracy.
Many of the unmet needs that are taxing our already over-extended systems can be met by caring, minimally-trained community members. By shifting some of the burden of care from institutions and empowering people to care for each other, we aim to shift the broader social perspective on what care is and where it comes from. People who are marginalized and excluded from society for being homeless, for experiencing mental illness and/or substance use disorder, and for being members of minority groups still subject to widespread institutionalized and social racism, are well-suited to care for their communities as paid professionals.
Ultimately, the CHW Collaborative will become an independent and self-sufficient worker owned cooperative. Moving forward as a society, we must work to build systems that offer meaningful work for historically marginalized populations. The CHW Collaborative creates engaging and purposeful jobs. It gives people a chance to develop their own role within their community based on their particular skills and interests, as well as the needs of the people they are inspired to serve. Addressing the issue of personal fulfillment is an aspect of health that most of our current healthcare systems fail to address, and a CHW program that gives people the opportunity to take an active role in the care of themselves and their community will measurably and qualitatively improve health equity.
Stages of Development
The first stage is already underway. The CHW Collaborative is engaged in a Human Centered Design process with the support of ThinkPlace. This design process starts with our Advisory Group of representatives from participating organizations in the Collaborative working to identify the problems and develop solutions that a Community Health Worker can address. The Advisory Group connects our Working Group with participants from the populations that they serve. Those participants are community members actively experiencing or with a history of SUD, homlessness, mental illness, and health access disparities due to age, race, and/or sexual orientation, who are paid with Collaborative funds to serve as expert contributors to the program design process. Participants contribute to the design of both CHW services and the CHW training program, and ultimately become the CHWs for their communities. In this way, the people being served are integral and valued contributors to program development and implementation.
The second stage is the implementation of the CHW training program at the College of the Redwoods Workforce and Community Education Program. The CR Workforce program specializes in accessible vocational training. CR staff and administration are providing program design assistance in collaboration with Cooperation Humboldt staff member Tobin McKee, who has a background in vocational and small business education. The CHW training program will be open to the public, with scholarships and other assistance provided by CR and the Collaborative to low-income participants. Additionally, participants from our program design process will serve as teaching assistants, with the ultimate goal of becoming instructors.
The third stage includes the placement of Community Health Workers in their communities, the further recruitment and training of CHWs from those communities, and the development of a worker owned cooperative of CHWs who take over program administration from the Collaborative and become an independent and self-sufficient business, comprised of people with lived experience of the problems they are addressing. Our long term goal is for the worker owned cooperative to transition from foundation funding to include contracted services with state and local government agencies, including Department of Health and Human Services, police departments, and municipalities.