Gov. JB Pritzker was in Aurora today (Monday, April 26, 2021) to announce that the state will be ramping up the Pandemic Health Navigator Program, which aims to connect people with COVID-19 vaccine and testing services at a hyper-local level.
The Pandemic Health Navigator Program is a statewide network of public and private sector health and community-based organizations whose mission is to prevent transmission of COVID-19 through education and outreach to vulnerable communities.
The program, already in operation in communities around the state, integrates community health centers, community-based organizations, and public health partners to coordinate available resources for Illinois regions that have been most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are at a point where supply will soon exceed demand,” Pritzker said during an 11 a.m. news conference at Aurora VNA. “Making vaccines available is only half the battle here. Many of our residents might still be unsure of the risks or maybe wondering if the vaccine is really worth it. A critical component of getting Illinois out of this pandemic is breaking down those barriers.”
Pritzker said Illinois us now well above the national average with 56% of people 18 and over getting a first dose.
So the state is ramping up efforts to make sure the balance of the population gets a vaccine shot. He said herd immunity is typically consider to be 70% to 85% of the population.
Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin and others were among the speakers at the news conference.
Communities that should be engaged in this grant opportunity include, but are not limited to:
Racial and ethnic minorities, including, but not limited to: African-American/Black, Arab American, Asian American/Pacific Islander, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian/Alaska Native
- Foreign-born individuals
- People with limited English proficiency
- Undocumented immigrants
- People living close to or below the federal poverty line
- Disconnected youth
- People experiencing homelessness
- People who live in rural areas
- People with disabilities (including Deaf and Hard of Hearing)
- Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning or Queer people
- Older adults
The Pandemic Health Navigator Program operates throughout all of Illinois outside of Cook County, also known as Regions 1-9. The Illinois Department of Public Health granted $60 million in funding to regional coordinators to ensure resources are available for residents in need either through direct services and/or sub-awarding to Federally Qualified Health Centers and other community-based agencies.
OSF Healthcare System serves as the Regional Coordinator for Region 1, and the IPHA serves as the Regional Coordinator for Regions 2-9. Kane County is in Region 8.
Earlier this year, PHNP began efforts to equip community-based organizations and federally qualified health centers with funding, training, and resources to provide local support to Illinois residents. To date, 65 CBOs and 23 FQHCs are participating in the program.
These partnerships have helped hire more than 400 Community Health Workers and regional supervisors, with the goal to hire hundreds more in the next three months.
The PHNP team also collaborates and coordinates across the assigned regions with the public health system, including with local health departments (LHDs), to support contact tracing efforts and ensure all communities receive needed assistance and to help reduce disparities in health outcomes.
“As we look toward recovering from the health, social and economic hardships brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, we recognize the importance of providing Illinois residents with education, resources and guidance from people they trust,” said Tom Hughes, executive director of IPHA. “We’re proud to be leading a network of Community Health Workers that are already making an impact by connecting vulnerable populations with vital education and resources – like access to food and health services – that are positioning these communities to move forward, stronger.”
“While we are on the backside of the pandemic, we are still seeing more than 2,000 new cases of COVID-19 each day in Illinois,” said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike. “We want to continue to support people who are sickened by the virus to make sure they have the resources they need to overcome their illness. We especially want to make sure they have access to COVID-19 vaccines, as well as others in the communities in which they live.”
IPHA and IPHCA will sub-contract with FQHCs and community-based agencies in Illinois COVID-19 regions 2-9 to recruit the navigators for local COVID-19 education and outreach, to support contact tracing as needed, and to connect cases and contacts with critical services and resources. This may include resources for meals, medicine, mobility support, immigration matters, work and income resources, mental health support, support for unsafe living conditions (e.g. domestic abuse), etc., during isolation and quarantine.
“This program is an important resource to support the healthcare needs of our communities, especially diverse communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Cyrus Winnett, Interim President and CEO, IPHCA.“By leveraging local health departments, community health centers and community-based organizations, we’re providing on-the-ground, trusted support to ensure Illinoisans receive the health education, outreach, and resources they need to be healthy and safe.
To better understand the views and needs of Illinois communities during the pandemic, IPHA and IPHCA recently conducted a survey of more than 800 residents.
The survey results showed that Illinois residents are in need of guidance and underscored the importance of sharing accurate information and dispelling common misconceptions. The survey revealed the following data:
- 1 in 5 residents indicated they were not able or unsure of their ability to tell the difference between scientific facts and misinformation or false claims on the Internet.
- 21% of residents said they would not get the COVID-19 vaccine.
- More than half (57%) of respondents stated they would be open to working with a Community Health Worker.
“Healthcare providers have been on the front lines in the fight against COVID-19 from day one,” said Linnea Windel, President and CEO of VNA Health Care.“The Pandemic Health Navigator Program will provide us with additional tools, resources and Community Health Workers to support our fight against this virus and help our patients and larger community get through this together.”
For more information about the program and to connect to a local community health worker, visit www.HelpGuideThrive.org.