FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE MEDIA CONTACT
December 1, 2021
COMMUNITY HEALTH PROGRAM PROVIDING PANDEMIC ASSISTANCE SERVICES IN ILLINOIS EXTENDED THROUGH JUNE 2022
Community Health Workers fulfilled 28,000 resource requests in just eight months
SPRINGFIELD, ILLINOIS – Illinois’ Dept. of Public Health has extended the state’s Pandemic Health Navigator Program, an innovative network of community health workers responding to resource requests from individuals impacted by COVID-19, through June 2022.
The extension announced today by the Illinois Public Health Association (I.P.H.A.), which manages the program in-conjunction with the Illinois Primary Health Care Association, comes as participating organizations retool their services for the next wave of needs, including educational programs about youth vaccinations and addressing the long-term impact of the pandemic.
“We thank the Illinois Dept. of Public Health for recognizing the need for this program and all it has to offer our very large and diverse state,” said Tom Hughes, executive director of the Illinois Public Health Association. “The COVID-19 pandemic is not over, and Community Health Workers play an integral part in mitigating the spread of this virus.”
Since Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker announced the program’s launch in April, the program has provided community-based organizations in 92 counties (Regions 2 – 9) the resources to hire and train Community Health Workers to respond to resource requests from people effected by the COVID-19 pandemic. There are now more than 650 Community Health Workers at 86 health organizations, including 22 Federally Qualified Health Centers, throughout Illinois because of the program.
More than 28,000 requests have been received within the last eight months. Most of those requests were for food, medicines, and household items for clients quarantined by an infection or close contact with the virus. Community Health Workers are also trained to help clients apply for local and government initiatives, including employment services and programs that prevent evictions and utility disconnections.
While those needs are not likely to go away, Community Health Workers are also driving the conversation in neighborhoods with lower COVID-19 vaccination rates. Their campaigns often include mobile vaccine clinics or shuttle services that get people to and from their vaccination appointment.
In Illinois, more than 70 percent of the population at least 12-years-old has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and nearly 20 percent of 5 – 11-year-olds have received the first dose of a pediatric dose approved earlier this month by Federal health regulators. Inoculation rates are lower across the board for Black and brown populations as vaccine concerns and unanswered questions prevent these Illinoisans from scheduling appointments despite numerous advisories from medical professionals.
“Community Health Workers serve the communities they live in, which makes them effective advocates for vaccination and informed health care decisions,” said Dr. Tracey Smith, director of community health and programs. “People need to talk with someone they trust about their health.”
A survey conducted in October showed 98 percent of clients served by Community Health Workers during the pandemic were satisfied with the resources they received. Among the reviews, respondents said they were grateful for the promptness and passion displayed by their Community Health Worker in fulfilling their request. Many expressed that they do not know what they would have done without the assistance.
The Illinois Pandemic Health Navigator Program receives American Rescue Plan funding through an Illinois Dept. of Public Health grant. Anyone in-need of COVID-19 services should contact their local public health department or any of the participating community-based organizations. A full directory of participating organizations is available online at helpguidethrive.org. The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention has also established a digital directory of COVID-19 vaccine appointments at vaccines.gov.