For 11 years, Elizabeth Macino has helped Toledo/Lucas County CareNet clients in numerous ways, including getting enrolled in Medicaid or other health insurance coverage. Now Elizabeth is taking on another role: community health worker.
Community health workers (CHWs) are frontline public health professionals and relatively new to northwest Ohio. Certified through the Ohio Board of Nursing, CHWs work closely with residents to help them get the medical and social services they need.
Elizabeth, for example, gets low-income CareNet clients age 35 to 65 connected to care for diabetes, high blood pressure and other heart conditions, as well as shelter, utilities, food, clothing and other services. She is one of nine CHWs working with adults with or at risk for chronic disease who is coordinated by the Northwest Ohio Pathways HUB. CareNet also has a CHW coordinated by Pathways who works with people who have abnormal mammograms.
“We’re kind of like the bridge between the client and the doctor,” Elizabeth said. “You can go to the doctor and get pills for high blood pressure, but if you don’t have healthy food or know anything about nutrition, you’re not going to truly address the problem.”
Elizabeth became certified as a CHW in December through North Central State College’s program. Pathways, North Central State College and Mercy College of Ohio are part of the University of Toledo Area Health Education Center (AHEC) Partnership for Community Health Workers, which was awarded funding to increase the number of certified CHWs serving the Medicaid population in northwest Ohio.
Pathways is training and coordinating CHWs employed at CareNet and six other sites that care for adults with chronic diseases located throughout Lucas County:
- The Dental Center of Northwest Ohio
- Mercy Adult Medical Clinic
- Mercy Senior Wellness Center
- Neighborhood Health Association
- Senior Independence
- University of Toledo
Many people don’t know how to move through the healthcare system to access services they need or what assistance is available from community agencies. CHWs have that information and can help clients determine and weigh their options.
“You can call the different agencies if you know who to call, or we can help connect you to all of the agencies,” Elizabeth said. “We can assist clients – we don’t do everything – but we can help them help themselves.”