7 Outreach **Resources **for National Latinx AIDS Awareness Day.

[Lee este artículo en español aquí.]

HIV used to be a death sentence—and for many, it still is. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that race and ethnicity have an effect on prevention and management of HIV/AIDS. Over the years, outreach campaigns have been essential to reducing such barriers as stigma and supporting the men and women who are at risk of HIV/AIDS or who are living with it.

The National Latino AIDS Awareness Day (NLAAD) on October 15 is a way to raise awareness of HIV in Latinx communities, including testing, prevention, and education. Stigma is a difficult barrier, which is part of what’s fueling NLAAD.

CHWTraining has educated people across the country and distributed resources to help health workers run successful awareness and outreach campaigns since developing HIV/AIDS: Supporting Community Members. Here are 7 free outreach tools and resources (in English and Spanish) that will help you and your team support National Latino AIDS Awareness Day on October 15 and all year around.

When your team is ready to support community members with HIV and needs some help in outreach skills and community engagement techniques, contact CHWTraining for education.

1. Expanding Your Reach To End the HIV Epidemic: Community Engagement Toolkit (PDF), Minority AIDS Council

Language: English

This in-depth toolkit is a step-by-step process for building and launching a community engagement program for reducing HIV in communities. This toolkit is for program coordinators or administrators rather than CHWs working alone, but it’s still a great educational tool loaded with ideas and examples. Anyone can review “Principles for Community Engagement” or templates for surveys and assessments. Many examples of projects targeting Latino communities.

2. Blueprint For Improving Hiv/Std Prevention And Care Outcomes For Black And Latino Gay Men, NASTAD (National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors)

Language: English

This downloadable toolkit zeroes in on one of the toughest areas of HIV prevention there is, especially in the Latino community: stigma. Stigma is an especially dangerous barrier because it stops people from taking action to protect themselves, get tested or get treated. The document helpfully talks about stigma and includes reflective questions that help guide administrators through setting up an HIV and STD outreach program to target the area. The “Recommended Steps for Removing Stigma from Public Health Practice” is a helpful guide to drive a campaign and offer services.

3. We Are Family or Somos Familia, Greater Than AIDS

Language: English and Spanish

Greater Than AIDS offers several documentaries in both English and Spanish that address relationships for Latinos living with HIV. Share these videos with clients and partners to show how important social support is for people with HIV. Strong support networks make it more likely that people will seek care and stick to treatment programs. Greater Than also offers community toolkits for on-the-ground outreach.

4. You Know Different Social Marketing Campaign Toolkit (PDF), The National Youth Advocacy Coalition

Language: English

This toolkit is made especially for anyone looking to use social marketing as an outreach strategy to encourage youth HIV testing. It is intended to help organizations plan and carry out the You Know Different social marketing campaign. That aims to boost counseling, testing, and referral services among and sexual minority youth of color aged 13–24. It’s incredibly detailed and useful with key messages that are useful in any campaign.

5. Detengamos Juntos el VIH, CDC

Language: Spanish

This web-based guide provides case studies with sample scripts to deal with the stigma around HIV and Latinos. It’s part of a larger campaign to address HIV. This short section is immediately useful for anyone who engages with clients in various situations.

6. Campanas para la movilizacion social (PDF), Ingeniería sin Fronteras Asociación para el Desarrollo

Language: Spanish

This Spanish social mobilization tool is made as a how-to guide for outreach in various sectors. It carefully plots out each step to creating and executing any outreach campaign, including several examples for HIV/AIDS campaigns. At 200 pages, it’s a weighty resource, but it’s a useful tool for engaging Spanish-speaking audiences.

7. Latinx People, The Body

Language: English

The Body is an outstanding resource for HIV/AIDS education. This collection of stories, news and reports on Latino populations dealing with HIV is inspirational and useful. For example, a story on HIV in Orange County, California, provides a snapshot about the LGBTQ-focused preventive and primary care organization and how they’re fighting diseases such as HIV/AIDS. Another story “Fighting a Rising HIV Epidemic Among Latino Gay and Bisexual Men in Phoenix” is loaded with personal stories.

7 Recursos de Proyección Comunitaria para el Día de Concientización Latinx sobre el SIDA

[Read this post in English.]

El contagio por VIH solía ser una sentencia de muerte, y para muchos aún lo es. El Centro para el Control y prevención de Enfermedades Infecciosas (CDC) reporta que la raza y etnicidad tienen repercusiones sobre la prevención y manejo del VIH/SIDA.

El Día Nacional Latino para la Concientización del Sida (NLAAD), celebrado cada 15 de octubre, es una manera de despertar conciencia sobre el VIH en comunidades latinxs, incluyendo información sobre pruebas, prevención y educación al respecto.

Desde el desarrollo de Sida/VIH: Apoyando a los Miembros de la Comunidad, Talance ha educado a personas de todo el país y distribuido recursos para ayudar a que los trabajadores de salud comunitarios puedan llevar a cabo campañas de información y concientización exitosas. Contáctanos para saber más de nuestros servicios.

Para apoyar el Día Nacional Latino para la Concientización del Sida, aquí les mostramos 7 recursos (En inglés y en español) que le ayudarán a usted y su equipo a manejar la enfermedad en su comunidad.

1. Expandiendo tu alcance para terminar la epidemia de VIH: Kit de Herramientas para Involucrar a la Comunidad (PDF), Minority AIDS Council

Expandiendo tu alcance para terminar la epidemia de VIH: Kit de Herramientas para Involucrar a la Comunidad

Idioma: Inglés

Este completo juego de herramientas constituye un proceso paso a paso para elaborar y llevar a cabo un programa de integración comunitaria para reducir el VIH en una población. Está dirigido a coordinadores y administradores de los programas más que para los trabajadores comunitarios en sí, pero es una excelente herramienta educacional llena de ideas y ejemplos. Todos pueden aprender de “Principios para la Integración de la Comunidad” o los modelos para encuestas y listas de cotejo. También incluye muchos proyectos de ejemplo que tienen como objetivo comunidades latinas.

2. Plan de Acción para mejorar los resultados de la Prevención y Cuidado del VIH/ETS para Hombres Gay Latinos y Afroamericanos NASTAD (National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors)

Plan de Acción para mejorar los resultados de la Prevención y Cuidado del VIH/ETS para Hombres Gay Latinos y Afroamericanos

Idioma: Inglés

Este kit descargable se enfoca en uno de los puntos más difíciles para la prevención del VIH, especialmente en las comunidades latinas: El estigma. Esta es una barrera especialmente peligrosa, ya que hace que las personas no tomen ninguna acción para protegerse, hacerse exámenes de despistaje, o recibir tratamiento. Este documento ofrece información sobre el estigma e incluye preguntas y reflexiones que ayudarán a guiar a los administradores hacia la elaboración de programas de prevención contra el VIH y otras ETS para un área. Los “Pasos Recomendados para Eliminar el Estigma en las Prácticas de Salud Pública” es una excelente guía para impulsar una campaña y ofrecer servicios.

3. We Are Family o Somos Familia

We Are Family o Somos Familia

Idioma: Inglés y español

El sitio Greater than AIDS ofrece varios documentales, tanto en inglés como español, que hablan de las relaciones de los latinos que viven con VIH. Estos videos, que son sencillos de compartir con clientes y colegas, demuestran lo importante que es el apoyo social para las personas con VIH. Una red de apoyo fortalecida hace más probable que las personas busquen y sigan los programas de tratamiento. Greater than AIDS también ofrece herramientas comunitarias para campañas en la misma localidad.

4. Kit de Herramientas Para Marketing Social Tú Sabes Más (PDF), The National Youth Advocacy Coalition
Kit de Herramientas Para Marketing Social Tú Sabes Más

Idioma: Inglés

Este juego de herramientas está dirigido especialmente a quienes busquen usar las redes sociales como estrategia de acción para motivar a los jóvenes a hacerse pruebas de despistaje de VIH. La intención es ayudar a planificar y llevar a cabo la campaña de marketing social Tú Sabes Más, que busca fomentar la búsqueda de consejos, atención, pruebas y servicios referidos entre jóvenes de color y minorías sexuales de edades entre 13 y 24. Tiene mensajes útiles y detallados que pueden ser usados en cualquier campaña.

5. Detengamos Juntos el VIH, CDC

Detengamos Juntos el VIH

Idioma: Español

Esta guía web ofrece estudios de casos con libretos detallados acerca de cómo lidiar con el estigma alrededor del VIH en latinos. Es parte de una campaña más grande dirigida al VIH, la cual también resulta de gran ayuda, pero esta sección es de ayuda inmediata para quienes deben abordar a sus clientes de cualquier forma.

6. Campaña para la Movilización Social (PDF), Ingeniería sin Fronteras Asociación para el Desarrollo

Campaña para la Movilización Social

Idioma: Español

Esta herramienta de movilización social está escrita como una guía para hacer acercamientos en distintas comunidades. Da instrucciones detalladas paso a paso para la creación y ejecución de campañas comunitarias y también incluye ejemplos de campañas para el VIH/SIDA. Con más de 200 páginas es un recurso de peso, pero resulta una herramienta sumamente útil para alcanzar comunidades de habla hispana.

7. Gente Latinx, The Body

Gente Latinx

Idioma: Inglés

The Body es un extraordinario recurso para la educación acerca del VIH/SIDA. Esta colección de historias, noticias y reportes acerca de las poblaciones latinas que enfrentan el VIH es inspiradora y útil. Por ejemplo, la historia del VIH en Orange County, California, ofrece una visión sobre la prevención y el cuidado primario enfocado en poblaciones LGBTQ. Otra historia, “Luchando contra el surgimiento de la epidemia de VIH entre hombres latinos y bisexuales en Phoenix”, está cargada de anécdotas personales.

Community outreach in Liberia by UNMEER

Community Engagement the Right Way with Outreach Skills

Four essential outreach skills for putting a community engagement plan into action.

After months—maybe years—of planning, research, building, and even growing a few extra gray hairs, your program is ready for your community. You’re certaioun that you’ve trained your community health team to keep people out of emergency rooms, lower their high blood pressure, control their diabetes, keep them safe from skin cancer. You’ve met all your grant objectives, you’re confident what you’ve created is destined to help, and your community is…silent.

What did you miss?

It could be outreach.

Even the best programs can fail if no one knows about them. Keeping communities in better health begins with an outreach effort. All community health worker (CHW) teams should understand what outreach is and why it helps, so it pays to train them with the right skills to spread word about your programs and services.

What is community outreach?

Community outreach and engagement means talking to local groups, using local media and social media to discuss healthy habits, or appearing at community events to do demonstrations and build linkages. Outreach is essential for connecting people to healthcare and services. It helps to delivers evidence-based information and minimizes communication gaps among providers and the public.

And you need to do it many ways, and you need to do it over and over again. Research shows that people won’t act on something until they’ve heard or seen it seven times, on average. The rule of seven is an old marketing rule that happens to still be true.

Successful outreach is definitely and art, but also a science. Skills can be learned, and many of them most CHWs already have through collaborating with other health care practitioners and working with clients.

Here are four essential outreach skills to share with your team that they can start using right now.

Build organizational skills.

Taking on an outreach project requires organization. That means your team members need to be able to control their own chaos and work well with others. It also means proficiency in capturing information, conducting research. A good base in organizational skills will form the foundation of successful outreach projects.

Tell a story—and feel free to make it personal.

Our culture is built on connecting with others in society, and the best way to do that is to listen and relate to others’ stories. Keeping hypertension under control might boil down to blood pressure readings, but it’s so much more engaging to know how and why it matters in real life. If you need help phrasing a story, the Acrobatant blog has a great article Three Ways to Tell Your Story in Healthcare Marketing.

ReThink Health also has a Public Narrative Toolkit for outreach skills that includes short videos, worksheets, meeting agendas, and coaching tips for telling stories.

When doing any kind of outreach, ask your team to think about their own experience or those of others and how it relates, because this is what sparks excitement and engagement.

Make sure the right people hear it.

Part of being organized is identifying your target audience, or the people who you need to communicate your message with. Even the most compelling story and useful program or service will fall flat if you skip this step. Spend time carefully identifying who you need to reach with your outreach project.

For example, you might target mothers with small children with a sunscreen use outreach project. What places do they visit around town? Do they use social media? Do health fairs work for your clients? Can you partner with schools or businesses? Learn your audience and support system so you can connect meaningfully.

Repeat, and repeat again.

Once is never enough. After you’ve done the research, drafted the your story, and found a target audience, deploy the outreach plan. And then do it again. People need to be reminded, because they forget, get distracted, the information isn’t relevant—whatever the reason is, hearing a message multiple times makes it click.

Outreach skills are only part of a comprehensive CHW training program that will guarantee the success of your program. Have a look at some of our skill-building training courses to think about how they fit into your initiative.

7 Benefits of a Learning Subscription for Community Health Workers

7 Benefits of a Learning Subscription for Community Health Workers

If your organization needs to improve the public’s health and well-being in your community, then you already know community health workers (CHWs) are a good solution. That’s the directive of many of the Medicare health plans and clinics that work with CHWTraining.

The problem comes to deciding how to train a brand new CHW workforce or other support workers. Many individuals want to promote health and build community capacity to ensure health equity, but they might not have the skills. That can be an issue especially if you need them to be trained quickly.

You need efficiency in your training process so you’re not reinventing the wheel every time with every community health worker training. A ready-to-go learning process is important because traditional classroom training takes time and extra funding.

What is an Online Learning Subscription?

A learning subscription lets you begin training within a few days. It’s a digital learning solution that provides 24/7 access to a complete catalog of interactive training courses and videos for anyone on your team who needs to build skills or meet training requirements. Learning subscriptions are helpful for existing and new hires because they make it easy to stay current as health recommendations are constantly changed and revised. Access to a continuous learning system like CHWTraining keeps staff connected to enhanced training or CHW certification requirements with each new update.

Ultimately, the quicker your organization can hire and train CHWs, the faster they can do the tasks they’re are so good at: providing high-impact prevention, early intervention for at-risk individuals, navigation support, and linkage to care. Uncoordinated training efforts can put your health outreach projects at stake.

Take a look at these 7 benefits of a learning subscription for CHWs.

1. 24/7 access, all year long

Most learning subscriptions, including CHWTraining, provide year-round access, 24 hours per day. This means that your staff can access training when it’s convenient for them: between site visits or client calls or on weekends. It also means that you can train new people whenever you hire them any time within a 12-month period—or longer with a multi-year subscription.

2. Reduce administration

Many CHW programs are grant-funded, and they require careful documentation of who took which course and if they received a certificate of completion and when. This kind of administration is much easier if the training program is outsourced. Spending for grant requirements is clearly documented, and the need for expense reimbursements is greatly reduced.

3. Fulfill competency requirements

Many states follow CHW core competency requirements, such as those from the Community Health Worker Core Consensus Project (C3), and your team members might be required to meet them for employment. A CHW learning subscription tracks the common requirements nationally so you don’t have to.

4. Dedicated technical support

Most of the organizations we work with realize their training needs but lack the staff to do it. Many programs run on a slim team—sometimes of just one or two people. If they’re in charge of their regular job duties, the last thing they have the time or skills to do is support participants who need technical support. Having a technical support team—that speaks English, Spanish, Portuguese, Mandarin and other languages—can let in-house administrators focus on their day-to-day duties.

5. Keep knowledge fresh

Health recommendations change constantly, as do health and social service systems, grant objectives and population health concerns. CHW teams need to be informed of these changes when they happen. A training subscription means they have access to updates throughout the year—whenever they happen. You can make sure your team remembers what they learned by requiring them to refresh their training every year.

6. No need to reinvent the wheel

Many training programs, such as sexual harassment or assessment skills, don’t vary much from year to year or from class to class. Moving training online means getting away from repeating the same training year after year and to each employee group. This has tremendous cost savings.

7. Simplify reporting

Reports that are generated on the fly can help create a personal experience and give administrators an easy view of how staff are doing. Tracking progress is as easy as clicking a button, which lets you quickly identify a learner’s status and gain insight into their training journey.

These are just some of the many ways that a CHW learning subscription can greatly improve the quality of your workforce and training efforts.

Curious about how you can bring more efficiency into your community health worker training program? Contact CHWTraining to talk about your needs today.

Vote

Survey: What Do You Want To Learn Next?

Maybe it’s the dog days of summer that got us feeling especially inspired—or maybe it’s that second cup of coffee. Whatever the reason, our team is in planning mode over on in CHWTraining development. We’ve already launched several awesome new courses this year, including Community Outreach and Engagement and HPV and Cervical Cancer. But now we’re adding some new options for the rest of the year. All we need is the right direction.

That’s where you come in.

So take a break from work and take this 5-minute survey to help ensure we’re delivering all the kind of training you’re looking for this year. There’s a prize!

CHWTraining Survey

Your Community Is Still Sitting Too Much [New Guidelines]

American’s are sitting too much and exercising too little, according to the new “Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans” (PDF; 14 MB). from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Back in 2008, we weren’t exercising enough, and after looking at about 27,000 adults, we still aren’t—and we’re sitting more. People who sit more than six hours a day went from 16.1% to 18.8%.

Time to redouble your health education efforts! We’ve updated our Promoting Healthy Lifestyles course to reflect that some physical activity is better than none. Moving around shows immediate health benefits, including reducing anxiety, improving blood pressure and insulin sensitivity.

There are even more long-term health benefits with more activity, from better cognition in youth to preventing 8 types of cancer in adults to reducing injuries from falls in older adults.
The new guidelines recommend:

  • Children ages 3 through 5 should be active throughout the day aiming for at least 3 hours per day.
  • Youth ages 6 through 17 need at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity every day. Most activity can be aerobic, like walking, running, or anything that makes their hearts beat faster, and also activities that make their bones and muscles stronger, such as jumping rope.
  • Adults need 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week. This can be dancing or jogging, and also 2 days of muscle-strengthening activity every week.

Or, in short, move more and sit less.

Here are some resources to promote physical activity in your community:

Read the new guidelines fact sheet Top 10 Things to Know.

Download the PowerPoint Presentation [PPT – 12.9 MB] [PDF – 2.4 MB] to promote the guidelines to
other professionals.

Download free Move Your Way Campaign Materials to use with your health promoters.

Ask about our training on promoting healthy lifestyles and courses on preventing and managing chronic
illness for your team.

5 Easy Ways To Keep Learners Motivated [Infographic]

5 Easy Ways To Keep Learners Motivated [Infographic]

The hard truth about investing in training for your team is that there’s no guarantee they’ll like it. You certainly hope that they find the elearning program they take to be engaging, immediately applicable and better able to connect with the people in the community.

But that’s not always what happens.

And while you can brush that off when you didn’t invest too much time in the curriculum—like when you just hand them a PDF—it stings a little more when it’s something more resource-heavy like an online training program.

Luckily, there are few things you can do in your training initiative to hedge your bets. We put together the following infographic on making highly engaging learning programs — helping you keep learners’ eyes open and keep improving health outcomes in your community. Follow these tips, and your team will be much more likely to finish, and be glad they did.

Want to use some of techniques with your team? Contact CHWTraining to start right now.

The ultimate list of CHW Conferences

I’m often asked, “Do you know of any upcoming conferences for CHWs in my area?” The answer used to be different, but these days, community health workers and others in a similar role are well represented at conferences. Here’s a list, so you can get planning. Know of others that aren’t here? Let me know!

Unity Conference

“Unity 2019 is a national conference designed for and about community health workers, community health representatives, and promotores.”  I’ll be presenting Mental Illnesses Are Epidemic: Helping Clients CopeSupervisor Support Skills for CHWs with Depression, Anxiety, and Secondary Trauma; and Burnout Prevention and Recovery for Community Health Workers. Unity 2019 will be held at the Las Vegas Flamingo Hotel and Casino on April 14-17, 2019, in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Community Health Worker Conference

“A conference that will explore why a racial justice approach is integral to strengthening the CHW workforce.”Presented by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Massachusetts Association of Community Health Workers.May 16, 2019, Four Points Sheraton, Norwood

Hawai‘i Community Health Worker Leadership Conference

“Join us and your fellow CHWs and allies from across the state for a day of learning, sharing and networking. Be a part of the discussion on creating a Hawai’i-based CHW association.”Friday, June 28, 2019, from 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM at the Ala Moana Hotel.

2019 Community Health Worker Conference: You are EPIC—Equitable, Passionate, Invested, and Collaborative

“The fifth annual Washington State Community Health Worker Conference is a two-day event that will engage, energize, and inspire CHWs and their allies to best support their communities.”April 11-12, 2019, Wenatchee Convention Center

Spectrum Health- Eleventh Annual Community Health Worker Conference

“Community Health Workers Leading Change at the Forefront of the Community: Being the Change You Want to See.  Conference Objectives; Discuss the effects of social injustice in our clients and communities, Creating educational opportunities to enhance the effectiveness of the Community Health Worker (CHW) in their roles in the community, Develop techniques to assist Community Health Workers in motivating their clients to make positive life changes.”Aug. 23, 2018 Grand Valley State University, Grand Rapids, Michigan

2019 MNCHWA Statewide Conference

“The Annual Minnesota Community Health Worker Alliance Statewide Conference brings together community health workers, supervisors, educators, providers, payers, policy makers and many others from across the state for a day of learning, exchange, networking and charting action on next-stage work.”May 2, 2019 | 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, Chanhassen, MN

Oregon Community Health Workers Association Annual Conference – You  Are The Voice Of The Community – Use It!

“The annual conference is ORCHWA’s signature event, bringing together Community Health Workers (CHW), Peer Support Specialists (PSS), Personal Health Navigators (PHN), Peer Wellness Specialists (PWS), doulas, other Traditional Health Workers, and supervisory staff.  This event addresses relevant policy and sustainability issues including: training, certification, employment opportunities, and more.”August 16 & 17, 2019, Inn at the Commons, Medford, Oregon

Visión y Compromiso’s 17th Annual Conference “United We Rise for a Healthy Community!”

“The goal of the conference is to create a space where experiences and ideas can be exchanged among promotores and other participants that foster the learning of new skills, knowledge and advocacy for our communities. The annual conference for promotores and community health workers is organized by Visión y Compromiso in collaboration with a planning committee that is comprised of promotores and other leaders in the community and organizations.”Sept. 26-28, 2019, Sheraton Gateway Los Angeles

42ndAnnual Rural Health Conference

“NRHA’s Annual Rural Health Conference is the nation’s largest rural health conference, created for anyone with an interest in rural health care, including rural health practitioners, hospital administrators, clinic directors and lay health workers, social workers, state and federal health employees, academics, community members and more.”May 7-10, 2019  Atlanta, Ga.

13th Annual CHW Conference – Houston, TX

“Who Should Attend: Community Health Workers / Promotores de Salud; CHW Instructors; Prospective CHW Employers; Community-based organization representatives.  CEUs: Combination of DSHS-certified and non-certified CHW and CHW-I CEUs.”Friday, May 10, 2019 from 8:30 AM to 4:00 PM (CDT)Houston, TX

2019 Community Health Institute & EXPO

“The NACHC Com­mu­nity Health Institute (CHI) and EXPO is the largest annual gathering of health center clinicians, executives, consumer board members, along with State/Regional Primary Care Associations and Health Center Controlled Networks.”Hyatt Regency Chicago, Chicago, IL, August 18-20, 2019

Indiana CHW/CRS Annual Conference

“The Indiana CHW/CRS Annual Conference is an opportunity for Community Health Workers and Certified Recovery Specialists to connect and network with other helping professionals and learn knowledge and skills beneficial to the important work that they do.”March 15, 2019, Hilton Garden Inn Indianapolis Airport

2019 National Conference,One Voice

“The ACHI National Conference, held each year in March, convenes 700 population and community health professionals to learn from experts and exchange the latest tools, approaches and ideas from the field.”March 19-21, 2019, Chicago

4th Annual Kentucky Community Health Worker Conference – Share Your Voice – Share Your Story

“Advocating and promoting the profession of Community Health Workers (CHWs) in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.”September 19, 2019, Embassy Suites, Lexington, Kentucky

The Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators (AONN+)

“AONN+ will continue to advance the navigation profession by expanding the scope of educational sessions, networking opportunities, and industry-sponsored sessions through this conference. In addition, the Midyear Conference will address the evolving challenges of program improvement, the role of personalized medicine, and implementing best practices in navigation, survivorship, and psychosocial care.”San Diego, California May 16-19, 2019.

Read more about what we presented at the Unity Conference in our Resources

Is it time to make a Behavioral Health Referral?

In my session at the Unity 2019 Conference “Mental Illnesses Are Epidemic: Helping Clients Cope,” which I co-presented with Dr. Jeanine Joy from Happiness 1st, one of the hot questions for CHWs was: when is it time to make a referral?

It’s a great question, especially now at the beginning of Mental Health Month.

Even though community health workers can’t diagnose or directly treat a mental illness, there’s still a lot they can do. Making a referral for a mental illness like depression is an important step. Depression is like any chronic disease, which can be managed or avoided with early intervention.

This infographic is a short list of warning signs that should tip off a CHW that someone they’re working with might need a referral. Save and share with your CHW team.

Does your team need training in behavioral health? Read about our Healthy Living learning track.

What Supervisors Can Do To Support Mental Wellness of CHW Teams

Anyone supervising a community health worker team knows how important it is to support clients with depression, anxiety or other behavioral health issues.

What they might not realize is that their own staff might be feeling the same as their clients.

We’re taking a closer look at the negative effects of feelings of depression, anxiety, burnout and compassion fatigue on CHW staff at the Unity Conference 2019, which I’m previewing on March 26 with co-presenter Jeanine Joy, Ph.D. We’ll offer some solutions and strategies managers and supervisors can share with their team.


Burnout and mental disorders in CHWs

Why CHWs Feel Overwhelmed

CHWs create strong bonds with clients and report that they feel fulfilled by their jobs. However, CHWs are often called on to respond to mental health crises, but they might not have the training to handle it. They could be overworked and become discouraged when a relationship they build with a client ends. When they take on too much, they run the risk of depression, anxiety, burnout and compassion fatigue. When their mental wellness is at risk, so is your program.

“CHWs are often lauded for their ability to develop trust with peers, yet this willingness and ability to create enduring emotional bonds could threaten programme delivery,” says a study published in BMC Health Services Research.

In fact, community-based health workers are more likely to have problems with depression and mental health issues than the other members of their health care team.

Supervisor Training Gaps

In the process of developing three new modules for CHWTraining’s catalog (Depression and Anxiety, Motivational Interviewing and Supervisor Training), we immediately noticed some troubling trends:

  • Supervisors lack general training for managing teams of CHWs.
  • Supervisors lack training for dealing with mental wellness issues among their staff.
  • Many programs have few resources for supporting either supervisors or their staff.

Clearly, there’s a training and support gap that needs to be addressed. We’ve added courses on this topic to our online community health worker certification program, and we’re taking a deeper dive in an upcoming presentation “Supporting Mental Wellness In CHW Teams” (March 26 at 10 a.m.).

Here are some quick highlights.

Burnout, Depression and Anxiety Warning Signs

If you work in a close team, you might be able to easily tell if someone is feeling undue stress. In our behavioral health course, we flag these as some of the items to look for if you suspect someone needs help:

  • Sleeping too much or not enough
  • Sudden weight loss or gain
  • Avoiding people and activities
  • Smoking or drinking more, or using drugs
  • Mood swings
  • Apathy and calling in sick to work

Support Strategies for Supervisors

Start Before Problems Begin

One of the best things you can do is look out for any warning signs. But it’s even more effective to help your team avoid these dangers in the first place. Not only will you prevent any problems, but problems are much harder to address when they’ve already happened. Be proactive about the mental health of your team.

Listen Up

If you’re not sure if one of your CHWs is starting to feel the pressure of their job, listen. Be the kind of manager who is willing to listen to work-related issues. This gives employees the sense that they can come to you when they need to share. If they don’t volunteer information, make a habit of asking.

Similarly, encourage teamwork and bonding among the team. If you’re not there to lend an ear, someone else who understands the unique nature of being a CHW can provide a sympathetic ear.

Burn off Stress

At the top of the list is burning off stress. Organize informal picnics or potlucks with your team, so you’re connecting with each other in a way that’s not all about work. Or suggest walking meetings to recharge, as they do at Berkeley County School District, Moncks Corner, S.C.

Some organizations provide a mindfulness space to encourage relaxation or meditation. See if you can assign a room as a place where your staff can stop feeling overwhelmed. If you don’t have space or have a workforce that isn’t in a room together, encourage them to sit at their desk quietly, noticing their body’s sensations as they sit.

Mental Health Days

Your program should also offer mental health days as part of a benefits package. However, you should also suggest your staff take advantage of them. This can help CHWs realize that you support their mental wellness and that they can feel comfortable asking for time when they need it. Same goes for vacation time.

So, would you like to learn more?

Join us as we discuss improving your team’s mental wellness, identify signs that an employee is at risk for depression, anxiety, or secondary trauma, and show you how you can help your team improve their personal and professional lives. Sign up for this free presentation now.