Special to Iredell Free News

RALEIGH — The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services is expanding the COVID-19 Community Health Worker program to make it a statewide effort.

El Centro Latino and UNETE join six other vendors that were previously selected for this work – Catawba County Public Health, Kepro, Mount Calvary Center for Leadership Development, One to One with Youth, Southeastern Healthcare NC and Vidant Health – to aid in North Carolina’s efforts to connect those affected by COVID-19 with needed support, including assistance with COVID-19 vaccinations. In addition to the selection of new vendors, Kepro, Southeastern Healthcare NC and Vidant Health are expanding the counties they serve.

“Community Health Workers are trusted community members who have bolstered our statewide COVID-19 response and will continue to help North Carolinians, especially those in historically underserved communities, navigate this pandemic,” said NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen. “Community Health Workers play an important role in providing education and support to increase vaccination rates across the state, particularly as we address rising COVID-19 cases.”

Community Health Workers provide education and support to their communities to increase COVID-19 vaccinations. Such assistance includes helping people with scheduling appointments and finding transportation to vaccination sites. They also connect North Carolinians affected by COVID-19 with medical and social support, including diagnostic testing, primary care, case management, nutrition assistance and behavioral health services.

Through contracts with NCDHHS, the following vendor organizations will now recruit, train and manage Community Health Workers:

♦ Catawba County Public Health (serving Catawba County)

♦ El Centro Latino (to serve Cumberland, Durham, Harnett, Lee, Orange, Person, Montgomery, Moore, Richmond and Vance counties)

♦ Kepro (adding Alexander, Avery, Burke, Caldwell, Cherokee, Clay, Cleveland, Graham, Iredell, Lincoln, Macon, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Polk, Rutherford, Swain, and Yancey counties. Continuing to serve Anson, Cabarrus, Gaston, Mecklenburg, Rowan, Stanly and Union counties)

♦ Mount Calvary Center for Leadership Development (serving Bladen, Brunswick, Columbus, Hoke, New Hanover, Pender, Robeson, Sampson and Scotland counties)

♦ One to One with Youth (serving Greene, Lenoir and Wayne counties)

♦ Southeastern Healthcare NC (adding Alamance, Allegheny, Ashe, Caswell, Chatham, Davidson, Davie, Forsyth, Granville, Guilford, Randolph, Rockingham, Stokes, Surry, Warren, Watauga, Wilkes and Yadkin counties. Continuing to serve Franklin, Johnston, Nash, Wake and Wilson counties)

♦ UNETE (to serve Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson and Transylvania counties)

Vidant Health (adding Camden, Carteret, Craven, Currituck, Dare, Duplin, Hyde, Jones, Onslow, Pamlico, Pasquotank, Perquimans, Tyrrell and Washington counties. Continuing to serve Beaufort, Bertie, Chowan, Edgecombe, Gates, Halifax, Hertford, Martin, Northampton and Pitt counties)

With the addition of El Centro Latino and UNETE, North Carolinians in all counties will now have access to these services. Community Health Workers will work with local health departments, vaccine vendors and other community partners to identify ways to increase vaccine education and availability. They will also work together to identify and assist individuals who need help accessing medical or social services, finding a safe location to isolate, or addressing other COVID-19-related needs.

Vendors provide Community Health Workers with tablets or laptops and mobile hotspots to leverage NCCARE360, the nation’s first statewide coordinated care technology platform. NCCARE360 unites individuals with traditional health care settings and organizations that address non-medical drivers of health, such as food, housing, transportation, employment and interpersonal safety. Community Health Workers will also be trained in the COVID Vaccine Management System, with the ability to register and schedule individuals for vaccinations.

Community Health Workers are most successful when they can deliver culturally and linguistically appropriate services. During the contractor selection process, NCDHHS prioritized each vendor’s ability to ensure cultural and linguistic diversity throughout the initiative’s governance, leadership and workforce. If Community Health Workers are unable to meet an individual’s linguistic needs in person, they will use strategies including interpreter services, telephonic interpretation or remote video interpreting.

The NCDHHS-funded COVID-19 Community Health Worker initiative will run through June 2022, with the possibility of renewal for an additional two years. Success criteria for vendors will include the number of clients assisted with COVID-19-related services and supports, the number of referrals made, the referrals in which individuals are connected to resources, as well as the provision of vaccine education and support for vaccination events.

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