The City of Baltimore, along with local and national organizations, created the Baltimore Health Corps (BHC) to help contain the spread of COVID-19 and to address the needs of vulnerable residents during the pandemic.
This is a first-of-its-kind model that equitably provides employment to trusted community members to conduct contact tracing and care coordination across the city. The initiative trained and employed over 300 residents in a time of record unemployment, generating long-term career paths, and at the same time supported the city’s public health response to COVID-19.
A partnership with the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development (MOED), Baltimore City Health Department, Baltimore Corps, and HealthCare Access Maryland (HCAM), HealthCare Access Maryland currently has a team of 36 (including Community Health Workers, Care Coordination Associates, Social Workers, Data Advocates, Program Supervisors, and an Administrative Assistant), all who focus on the community health work arm of the initiative. Our Community Health Workers have been trained to support the social needs of Baltimore City residents dealing with COVID-19, including food access, health insurance coverage, utility bill assistance, and social isolation needs.
HCAM’s Community Health Workers are tasked to work on several initiatives related to containing the spread of COVID-19 and addressing the social needs of vulnerable residents. All of these initiatives are critical components in ensuring that Baltimore City residents are receiving care coordination services – both COVID-19 specific and general health related.
One of the primary ways Community Health Workers are supporting the COVID-19 response is by answering calls from community members in the Baltimore Health Corps call center. Alexa, one of HCAM’s Community Health Workers, shared some insight on her role and her day-to-day work. Her job duties include taking calls from individuals who are COVID-19 exposed or COVID-19 positive. She then connects them to a range of resources depending on the needs of the caller. These most commonly include resources to quarantine safely, to receive groceries or wellness kits (containing masks, Personal Protection Equipment kits, hand sanitizer, and thermometers), career services and workforce development training, and utility bill assistance. During the call, Alexa also screens the community member for additional healthcare needs and connects them to HCAM’s health insurance navigators or other HCAM departments and the appropriate health provider.
“Establishing individual relationships with the clients is extremely important. We can use that as an opportunity to connect them to services that can support them in meeting their life and health goals. To ensure self-efficacy, the goals are guided by the client. We are in the passenger’s seat providing possible route options and encouragements. While fielding these calls from individuals, we have the opportunity to really be present for people and show up for them. In a time where services and resources are scarce, we are providing support to community members and letting them know that they are heard,” stated Alexa.
A client that Alexa worked with, Donna, reached out to HCAM to express her gratitude for Alexa and her professionalism, and also shared how thankful she was for her experience with HCAM. A few weeks ago, Donna, who is facing medical problems, called into the Baltimore Health Corps Call Center because she was uninsured and needed some assistance with trying to find medical care. She also needed food and other household items and was reaching out to see if HCAM could provide any of these basic needs to her. “Alexa was able to connect me to the resources that I needed. She was very courteous, kind, nice, tactful, and caring. Because of that, I connected to her immediately. To have someone that courteous, professional, and helpful, and then on top of that, who is that caring, is rare these days. Overall, I had a really great experience with HCAM because of Alexa,” Donna shared.
Additionally, Community Health Workers are involved in outreach efforts for COVID-19 testing and vaccinations and the flu vaccine among many different populations. Some of the initiatives that our Community Health Workers are working on include:
- Mobile Testing Site Initiative – testing for COVID-19, providing COVID-19 isolation and quarantine resources, screening for social needs
- Booking and Intake Center Testing Initiative – Community Health Workers are stationed at the Booking and Intake Center testing tent to facilitate rapid testing of positive releases of arrestees that are experiencing homelessness.
- COVID-19 Vaccine Initiative – Community Health Workers will assist in reaching out to senior housing residents who are scheduled for a COVID-19 vaccine clinic, do a site visit and pre-registration 2-3 days before the clinic, and help run the clinic operations on the day of the vaccine clinic.
- Baltimore Health Corps Internal Call Center – Community Health Workers field COVID-19 phone calls from Baltimore City Health Department contact tracers and client self –referrals, in addition to providing information related to the COVID-19 vaccine.
- Homeless Outreach Initiative – Community Health Workers will provide education and COVID-19 vaccine registration at shelters and group homes before the vaccine events.
- Flu Initiative – Staff promote and assist community members to sign up and get the flu vaccine.
HCAM prides itself on connecting individuals to resources and services that they will benefit from, ultimately improving their quality of life. Because of HCAM’s growth over the past year, HCAM has been able to expand both our reach and the services that we provide throughout Baltimore City. The Baltimore Health Corps program has shed light on the top social needs that Baltimore City residents are facing during the pandemic. The highest needs in the Baltimore community have been for food boxes, wellness kits, housing resources and referrals, and utility assistance. Our team of Community Health Workers can quickly provide assistance and connect residents to the right resources and services.
For COVID-19 support and to reach the Baltimore Health Corps call center, please contact 410-649-0500 option 1 for services. For more information on HCAM’s work with Baltimore Health Corps, please contact Kenya Jenkins, Director of Baltimore Health Corps-HCAM at email@example.com.