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Help with heating, phones, food and housing

February 27, 2024
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An image of a community health worker carrying food for an older adult and helping him walk.

How Community Health Workers help members stay healthy and live well in their homes.

For many of us, a home is more than shelter. It’s a safe haven where family memories are made. CCA Community Health Worker Angelmina understood that when she first met Bonnie*, a CCA member in her 70s. Because she was struggling to replace her oil tank, Bonnie would soon be left without heat or hot water. Her safe haven would no longer be safe. 

While Bonnie tried to get help with replacing the oil tank, she faced many barriers. Since the home had been in Bonnie’s family for many years, belongings had accumulated in the basement, blocking access to the tank. Fallen trees were also limiting access to the basement door. Because of this, the fire department could not approve a new tank until the old one was removed. With no family or friends nearby to help, Bonnie was losing hope. “Everyone seemed to be closing doors on her,” Angelmina said. “She felt overwhelmed and didn’t want to hear from anyone.” To help, Angelmina contacted local vendors to clear the basement. She also helped Bonnie apply for financial support for a new oil tank.

Housing issues such as these can have a significant impact on someone’s health and wellbeing. That’s why in 2022 alone, CCA helped members receive more than 77,000 home modifications and supports. These included helping members get air conditioners, homemaker services, ramp installations, and more.

CCA Community Health Worker Janette has seen the impact these issues can have on the members she supports, too. “Many people who struggle with issues at home also struggle with stress, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol,” she said. “When you’re anxious about paying your bills, keeping warm, or staying safe, you can’t focus on your health. You may start eating unhealthy foods, skip your medications, or stop seeing your doctor.”

Both Janette and Angelmina help members live safely at home. That might mean connecting people to food resources or to transportation and phones so they can schedule doctors’ visits. It might also mean connecting them to a lawyer if they are facing eviction or helping them apply for housing.

Sometimes the process of applying for these programs and services can be difficult. Applications for housing, phones, or other financial support can be hard to understand. Community Health Workers help members apply for these programs. They also help them get access to all the documents they need for their applications. “Many of these programs need you to have a state ID,” Janette said. “For many of us, that’s not a big deal, but for some, it can be a barrier. To get an ID, you need a birth certificate, which not everyone can easily get. For other members, it’s about the cost. “You have to pay to request a birth certificate and not everyone can afford it.”

“Community Health Workers provide the kind of support that a friend or family member would offer,” Angelmina added. Recently, she helped a member apply for a phone so that he could join telehealth visits. The phone application required a social security card, which the member didn’t have. The process of getting him a new card was difficult. To help, Angelmina had to go into the social security office for the member. “He had to have a lot of trust in me to give me his ID and get this done for him,” she said.

While keeping members in their homes is an important goal for CCA, finding a new home is sometimes a better option. “I recently worked with a member who was living in a terrible environment,” Janette said. “His home was infested. The member also thought that he was up to date with his rent, but he wasn’t. He thought that his living situation was the best that he could do. We collaborated as a team and with our community partners. In less than a month, we helped him move to a safer home. Today, he’s much happier than before.”   

CCA’s Community Health Workers are key members of the care team. They work with CCA nurses and behavioral health clinicians to help members get the support they need. Janette’s number one goal is to advocate for her members. Serving as an advocate for someone requires trust and understanding, she said. “I need to listen before I can talk. While housing might be their primary need, helping them fill out that application isn’t always step one.”

Understanding a member’s family dynamics and culture is also critical, she said. “I worked with two members recently, husband and wife, who were living with their adult son. At first, it seemed like the two members didn’t have a housing issue. But after working with them for some time, I learned that the adult son was worried about being able to pay rent. He hadn’t shared that information with his parents. In their culture, adult children take care of their parents, and he didn’t want to worry them. While on paper there was no housing issue, there might be soon. Building trust with their son and helping him understand his options was critical to helping the parents.”

CCA’s Community Health Workers live in the communities they serve. They understand the conditions that impact the health and wellness of their neighbors. With this knowledge, they help members close gaps to get access to the programs they need.

When asked what she loves most about her job, Angelmina said she was passionate about helping people. “I’m willing to go the extra mile to help support our members’ needs,” she said.

Janette agreed. “CCA’s mission is to help people with the most significant needs stay healthy and live well. That’s a mission I strongly believe in, and I’m proud to support it every day.”

Learn more about CCA’s Community Health Workers:

*To protect the privacy of our member, this name is a pseudonym.

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