The Massachusetts Association of Community Health Workers (MACHW) announced and recognized 3 outstanding awardees from across the Commonwealth on May 3, 2018 at the 9th Annual Community Health Worker Conference held in Norwood, MA. MACHW wanted to recognize and honor the outstanding service, dedication, and excellence of individuals and groups of individuals who serve their communities as community health workers (CHWs). In 2018, three awards were given.
This year, the awardees include:
- Hendrick Hernandez, of Greater New Bedford Community Health Center, will receive the 2018 Outstanding CHW of the Year Award in recognition of his compassion and excellence in serving the Commonwealth’s most deserving neighbors.
- John Kempersal, of Southcoast Health, will receive the 2018 Outstanding CHW Supervisor of the Year Award in recognition of his excellence in supporting and coaching CHWs.
- Lowell General Hospital’s Circle Care Program will receive the 2018 Outstanding CHW Program of the Year Award in recognition of their team’s compassion and excellence in serving the Commonwealth’s most deserving neighbors.
Each of these awardees demonstrated effectiveness at improving the health of their clients, increasing their client’s access to health care, and tailoring the program to better meet their community’s needs. They also improved the quality of their client’s care by providing cultural mediation, facilitating improved doctor-client communication, and by providing linkages to health and social services.
One example of Hendrick Hernandez’s commitment to improving the health of his patients at Greater New Bedford Community Health Center involves his work with helping people who struggle to maintain their health insurance. Mr. Hernandez has a patient who was on a 1-year voucher program through a pharmaceutaical company for his HIV medications. As that 1-year period of coverage was ending, that patient struggled to apply for the state funded assistance program. Mr. Hernandez worked tirelessly and communicated with the patient regularly to help the patient overcome several barriers to coverage. He even met with the patient at his job site in order to put together the documentation that was needed to apply for coverage. Mr. Hernandez never gave up on his patient and never judged him for the barriers he was experiencing. With Mr. Hernandez’s help, his patient was able to maintain employment and maintain his health as best he could.
Similarly, John Kempersal has demonstrated a commitment to improving the health of his community by fostering leadership among CHWs at Southcoast Health. The program John supervises has been so successful that Southcoast Health has moved forward with hiring a full complement of CHWs to be part of the new Accountable Care Organization (ACO) initiative. CHWs on his team wrote that they feel he is a mentor to all 15 of them and inspires them to use their individual strengths to change the lives of others. “He promotes self-awareness and self-respect within the group of CHWs which enabled our team to work very well together and talk about our differences in front of each other.” John also advocates that each CHW have access to education whether it be directly from the CHEC Boston program or by having CHWs learn from each other. One CHW wrote, “we all look forward to our weekly CHW support group. This time is used for us. We discuss our accomplishments and our defeats. The intent isn’t to complain but to motivate our growth.” John is also skilled at improving the program by listening to suggestions from CHWs. “If we suggest an idea about improving the program, he brings the idea to our superiors and gives credit where credit is due.”
Lowell General Hospital’s Circle Care Program nominated their outstanding group of CHWs for the 2018 Outstanding CHW Program of the Year Award including Mara DaSilva, Soriya Chhun, Deborah Ryan, Shawn Jalbert, Gail Jean, and June Taing. This team helps patients avoid unnecessary hospital visits and served over 2,300 individuals over the last two years. Overall, the program has had many success stories of patients who once utilized the hospital over a handful of times a year, now have their health successfully managed and have been out of the hospital for over 18 months.
As described in their nomination, these CHWs are an indispensable part of the program. “They are first to engage the patient and from there they identify barriers to care and drivers of utilization. They assess the patients’ medical, behavioral, and social needs, and initiate the appropriate referrals. They participate in designing the individual treatment and care plan, aid the patient in completing the tasks necessary for emotional and physical stability, and serve as the liaison between the patient and the other members of the healthcare team…They facilitate engagement and the necessary follow through that is lacking in our current health care system. The CHWs have been able to reach out to communities that individual health care providers do not have access to. They were asked to find the homeless at the local shelter as well as at tent sites and alleys. They were asked to be the eyes and ears in the community and visit strangers in their homes and report back to the team. They saw poverty, addiction, loneliness, isolation and social marginalization and they extended a hand and then didn’t let go. We are so fortunate to have this experienced staff that enjoys the work that they do and set out every day to make a difference in someone’s life.”