Southwestern PA Consortium Supports Contact Tracers and Community Health Workers

In partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Health, the Jewish Healthcare Foundation continues to help convene the Southwestern PA Contact Tracing Consortium. Chief Policy Officer Robert Ferguson leads JHF's efforts, coordinating 50 organizations from 11 counties in the region to organize recruitment efforts. 

These efforts build on months of work to organize a contact tracing response for Pennsylvania. The PA Health Funders Collaborative (PHFC) began advocating for contact tracing in April. The group wrote a series of letters to the Commonwealth, recommending that the Commonwealth build a racially and geographically diverse Corps of Outreach Workers and operationalize contact tracing efforts through public/private partnerships. On July 31, Governor Tom Wolf expanded the Commonwealth's plans for contact tracing, announcing an additional 1,000 paid contact tracing staff under a $23 million federally-funded contract. This builds on the civilian contact tracing corps that was announced back in May. Alongside these statewide efforts, the Consortium has worked swiftly since late May to build up contact tracing capacity for the southwestern region.

In July, the Consortium monitored the availability of contact tracers and raised awareness about how to become a contact tracer. Additionally, the Consortium launched a new part of its scope of work to provide ongoing support to trained contact tracers.

Starting on July 20, multi-disciplinary facilitators from the Jewish Healthcare Foundation organized interactive debrief sessions twice weekly for contact tracers. The newly trained professionals shared their experiences and received guidance from the facilitators and their supervisors. JHF facilitators include JT Stoner, MPH, health services coordinator; Nicole Greer, RN, MPH, MPA, quality improvement specialist; Carol Frazer, MEd, LPC, practice transformation specialist; Robert Ferguson, MPH, chief policy officer; Kylea Covaleski, MPH, MSW, program associate; and Kyle Terrill, MSW, program assistant.

On July 28, Ferguson also presented information about contact tracing and the regional consortium to consumers, advocates, and stakeholders across Pennsylvania during a Zoom conversation hosted by the PA Health Access Network (PHAN).

To create a corps of health outreach workers and Community Health Workers (CHW), the Jewish Healthcare Foundation approved a $200,000 grant to Partner4Work (P4W). P4W will undertake a planning and advocacy effort to achieve three high-priority goals: (1) understanding and advocating for contact tracers and CHWs; (2) aligning efforts among training providers; and (3) creating clear career pathways for health care workers through the COVID-19 crisis and beyond. P4W will study the employment outlook, advocate for funding if necessary, and align training opportunities to immediately address the need for contact tracers and CHWs. P4W will serve as the lead advocate for a strategic Health Care Industry Partnership as the region emerges from crisis.   

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