TRC program provides link in patient care

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

In response to requests from local pharmacies, Three Rivers College developed a new program focused on bridging the gap in patient care.

The first set of seven community health worker students started the 16-week program at the beginning of this semester.

Once trained, community health workers provide a link between patients and additional resources in the community, which could help them.

For example, if somebody with a physical disability doesn’t have a ramp into their home, a community health worker could help connect the patient with a professional who can help.

Will Cooper, TRC director of workforce development, said the college developed the class after a local pharmacy requested it for some of its employees.

However, it is not limited to those in the pharmacy field.

Amber Richardson, TRC board president, said the Missouri Highlands Medical Clinic where she works as a clinical psychologist employs community health workers as well.

“It’s open to anybody,” Cooper said. “They have them in psychology, in social work. They’re kind of just the foot-on-the-ground people that can help with resources and get the person in contact with the right people.”

The program can have up to 15 students at the moment, but, Cooper said, he’s happy with a first class of seven with COVID-19 still ongoing.

As part of the program, students need to complete 100 hours of community work. Of that, they can do only 40 hours at a current place of employment.

The others need to be completed in other facilities, such as nursing homes, which currently have limited visitor access.

“I’m thankful that there’s only seven in this first group because if we had too many more than that, it might be even more challenging for those individuals to find places,” Cooper said. “At least with those seven, they’ve been able to locate places to do their service.”

Dr. Wesley Payne, TRC president, said the program was ready to get started in March, but ended up pushed back because of COVID-19.

“It was a very quick turn around,” he said. “Unfortunately, we had a lot of time that we had to wait.”

Cooper said a large part of that was the opportunity for students to get those hours.

The program is conducted fully online and is the first program to do so in the workforce development department, Cooper said.

It is also the department’s first program reaching into the health care field, he added.

Students need to pass a state test in order to earn a certificate in community health work.

Tuition is covered by a state grant through the Department of Health and Senior Services, Cooper said.

In the workforce development department, he continued, the college tries to find outside sources to cover or at least lower tuition for students in order to make the programs more accessible to those who need them.

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