Two individuals work together on a laptop
By Kelly Baek (Assistant Professor of Social Work and Social Ecology) - October 14, 2021

We're excited to share that the Department of Social Work and Social Ecology and the Promotores Academy from the San Manuel Gateway College were together awarded the Peer Personnel Grant from OSPHD for 2021-23! Our program addresses a unique need for professional leadership development to work with community health workers (CHWs). It is well established that our target regions' mental/behavioral health needs are high and that there is a critical shortage of behavioral health professionals to meet those needs.

Moreover, given our highly diverse population, many of whom encounter multiple detrimental determinants of health issues, including significant trauma, and the fact that much of the behavioral workforce does not match our diverse population, we need a multi-faceted support system that understands and relates to our high-need population in order to better serve them. Therefore, our program focuses on providing behavioral health training and placement support for CHWs with lived experience that enroll at the Promotores Academy. In addition, CHWs will be partnering with MSWs to share their experiences and training in order to help develop each other and better serve their communities.

Our vision is to build and strengthen the workforce capacity of community health workers/promotores who have lived experience and to promote health equity and well-being in communities. Our purpose is to: 1) increase awareness about behavioral health careers; 2) optimize career counseling for CHWs with lived experience who want to work in behavioral health; and 3) build and strengthen the relationship between CHWs and MSWs.

To achieve our goals we identified four objectives:

  • We will be providing outreach and recruiting persons to the Academy (including individuals with lived experience [LE]) by generating interest in a career in Public Mental Health Services (PMHS).
  • We will also be providing relevant training to students (including with LE) to prepare them for entering, re-entering, or advancing in the PMHS workforce. We understand that working in PMHS can be stressful and/or difficult to navigate so we will also be providing career counseling and placement support to graduating CHWs to prepare them for entering, re-entering, or advancing in the PMHS workforce.
  • We will also assess and evaluate participant progress in goal attainment toward being prepared to enter, re-enter, or advance in the PMHS workforce for 6 months' post PMHS placement.
  • The information/data will be used to identify strengths and areas of improvement and growth for the program.

We believe that providing the necessary support for peer CHWs to thrive in their placements, as well as building and strengthening the relationship between MSWs and CHWs, will help improve service delivery and service capacity, especially in critically underserved areas. The partnership between the Promotores Academy and the MSW program will provide insight into how to build trust and use each role's unique insight in working with low-resource, vulnerable communities, and how to engage and work with interdisciplinary teams.

With what we learn and gain from this experience, we plan to reapply for this grant for the following cycle, in 2023.