Community health workers and peer support teachers can bridge the gap in access to health care | News

Editor’s note: Henry County health partners recently came together to review progress in four different areas – access to health care, mental health, economic stability and substance abuse – that were identified as priorities in the 2020-22 Henry County Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP) to improve health in Henry County. This article is about access to health care.

Community health workers and peer support professionals can help bridge the gap between individuals in accessing health care.

A task force of people from the region focused on access to healthcare, including representatives from the Henry County Health Department, area hospitals such as Henry County and Mercy – Defiance , the Henry County Transportation System and A Renewed Mind.

Susan Davis, a community health worker in the Henry County Health Department, said the group had learned a lot from each other during their meetings over the past two years, including the services and resources provided by each. organization. The post of community health worker was created in the health department in 2017 based on information from the previous community health assessment, also on the lack of access to health care.

“Overall, we understood that there is a lot more help when it comes to someone who can be discharged from the hospital… to make sure their needs are met,” said Davis. “But I think we are missing something in terms of prevention, especially in our riding. A lot of people might not get the checkups and preventive care, get a doctor if they are not sick. “

Davis explained that the goal of a community health worker is to help people access resources, as well as remove barriers when possible, whether that is to set up transportation for themselves. make it to an appointment, help them get over a previous bad experience, find a provider or help explain a doctor’s orders. It is also important to build relationships with clients as this may explain why they do not have access to care or cannot access care. The additional cost of Davis may also be a factor if the care is not covered by insurance.

The need for these services was highlighted by the fact that 96% of people in Henry County had health insurance, but 30% missed routine checkups for preventive care.

“Preventive health care is essential, so many of my patients… it’s low on their list. They don’t do mental health stuff, they don’t do medicine, they just try to figure out what to do in a crisis, ”Davis said. “The roles (of the community health worker) are becoming that guide, that mentor, that peer whom they trust that they will take the doctor’s orders, understand them and apply them rather than go in without going in. find out, go home and not do it. “

Erica Gomez, peer support specialist at A Renewed Mind, added that there can be many barriers for people in addiction treatment.

“It’s because they don’t have a car or they’re scared, or they’ve been to all the outpatient treatment offices and don’t want to go back,” Gomez said. “Or they don’t want to take that step in their recovery because they don’t know what to expect, and that’s where I come in. I have that experience, I’ve been there. I’m five years sober, and I know what it is. So it is I who help them … overcome these obstacles … and I just get to know them and their needs.

However, Davis added that there must be more similar workers offering these services in the county.

“I think what we have now is working well for the patients we are targeting, but we need to focus on preventative care and health education,” Davis said, adding that it’s also important to publicize what a community the health worker is and the services he can provide.

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