HHS directs $227M toward community health worker training programs

The Biden administration is directing $226.5 million in American Rescue Plan funding toward a new multiyear training program for community health workers and health support workers, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced Friday.

Funded using American Rescue Plan dollars, the Community Health Worker Training Program aims to add 13,000 new professionals the administration said play a vital role in connecting the public to local health resources.

“The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to building a robust public health workforce—the first line of defense in preventing disease, safeguarding health and keeping the public safe,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement. “This funding will support these health workers—who know their communities and have their trust—as they keep their neighbors healthy, including throughout the COVID-19 response, by helping patients enroll in vital services, and by providing community education, outreach and support.”

According to a grant posting listed in the announcement, HHS’ Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) expects to award the money to roughly 75 entities, which could include public and private higher education organizations, state and county governments and Native American tribal organizations. Organizations have until June 14 to apply for the funds.

HHS said its funds will support education and apprenticeships for workers who act as “trusted messengers” that can either connect community members to care, help them follow through on recommendations from providers and contribute to other preventive and protective health factors.

In 2019, HRSA projected (PDF) the demand for community health workers would increase to nearly 67,560 full-time equivalents in 2030.

The administration said the need for these types of professionals—often recruited from the same communities they go on to serve—has become even more pronounced during the past few years.

“At a time when too much misinformation is clouding the healthcare landscape, we are investing in training community health workers who are trusted voices in their communities,” HRSA Administrator Carole Johnson said in a statement.

The administration has been steadily rolling out funds over the past few months aiming to support community care providers and blunt workforce challenges.

In February, for instance, HHS and HRSA unveiled nearly $55 million in awards to community health centers intended to increase access by bolstering their telehealth infrastructure. This came within a week of tens of millions for community-based vaccine outreach programs.

HHS and HRSA have also recently funneled more than $100 million of American Rescue Plan funding toward programs aimed at reducing burnout and promoting resilience among the healthcare workforce.