A Message from the Executive Director
It is with great sadness that I share my decision to step away from serving as the Executive Director for the MN Community Health Worker Alliance. The decision in no way reflects my commitment to the organization or my intention to stay involved in a meaningful way. Unfortunately, I have experienced continued health challenges related to a serious fall I took last fall. The challenges have been such that I do not feel I am able to give my complete focus and attention to the Executive Director role.
While I won’t be serving as the Executive Director, I will continue to serve as a project manager and will represent the Alliance as a community representative and subject matter expert.
I am confident the work of the Alliance will continue without interruption as we stay engaged with partners that are helping fulfill the organization’s contractual obligations and mission. Anne Ganey, MPH, continues her work with the Alliance leading projects and serving in the education and training role. Our collaboration with Stratis Health remains strong as they provide our “back office” administrative support and co-location, this relationship has strengthened the Alliance’s internal capacity.
During the period of transition, the Alliance’s Board of Directors has delegated the day-to-day operational responsibilities to the board’s executive committee. Cathy Weik, Sr. VP Administration for Stratis Health serves as the Alliance’s Board Chair and she will serve as the main point of contact. The Alliance’s Executive Committee, along with the other board members, will ensure the Alliance successfully executes on its work and remains a viable and active community collaborator and partner in achieving the vision of equitable and optimal health outcomes for all communities.
I want to thank the Alliance for the fantastic opportunity and for appointing me as the first Community Health Worker to serve as the organization’s Executive Director. I have accomplished great things in my work with the Alliance and have been presented with a wonderful opportunity to grow professionally and personally. I look forward to my continued work with the Alliance and know I am not saying goodbye, but rather, just changing the role from which I interact with each of you.
Until further notice, please direct your questions to Cathy Weik at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As always, the Alliance’s website is a wonderful source for answers to many of your questions. Please check this space for upcoming events and resources.
February Greetings to You!
The Minnesota Community Health Worker Alliance (MNCHWA) is off to a great start for 2020 by working with our partners on some exciting initiatives! In this issue, we are featuring several partnerships for your information, as well as information about ways you can be involved with the Alliance. As always, please contact me to learn more or get involved.
Fueling Growth with Partnerships
Our partnership with the Minnesota Breastfeeding Coalition will prepare Community Health Workers (CHWs) to serve as Infant Feeding Advisors by offering CHW training in breastfeeding support and infant feeding.
Together with Dr. LaPrincess C. Brewer, Assistant Professor at Mayo College of Medicine and a preventive cardiologist in the Department of Cardiovascular Medicine at Mayo Clinic, MNCHWA is partnering on the Fostering African-American Improvement in Total Health (FAITH!) program. The project objective is to refine the FAITH! app, an existing culturally-tailored smartphone application, and test its feasibility as a tool to deliver health education and self-management support to African American patients with uncontrolled hypertension with the help of Community Health Workers.
The Alliance is also working in collaborations to enhance rural partnerships and bring awareness to the great work of Minnesota’s rural CHWs. We are proud to announce that leadership development program graduate Hilda Sanchez-Herrera from the Sioux Falls area will be one of our many champions leading this work. I’m also excited to announce that we will add rural sections to our newsletter and website highlighting the great work and accomplishments of the CHWs as well as current and future rural projects.
We continue to look for additional ways to collaborate with other entities and are interested in the following:
- Supporting the training needs of CHWs for chronic diseases, such as dental disease and aging
- Supporting CHW professional development and recruitment through training workshops
- Convening skills-building discussion groups at the state level
Strengthening Ties Through Our Annual Conference on May 15th
I’d like to recognize and thank sponsors of the Alliance’s 2020 Annual Conference. We appreciate the support of the Medica Foundation, American Heart Association, and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. It is not too late to become a sponsor! Please contact me for information. Be sure to save the date to attend—May 15th—and check out conference details on our website at http://mnchwalliance.org/
Applications to CHW Leadership Development Institute due Feb 7th
I encourage all interested Minnesota CHWs to learn about our 2020 CHW Leadership Development Institute. Applications are due Feb 7th. See the article in this e-newsletter for more information about this outstanding opportunity and or click here the application link. CHW leadership is key to the future of our field!
Minnesota Community Health Worker Alliance
Vonyee Howard, MNCHWA Board Member
Care Coordinator at People Incorporated
Family Life Mental Health Clinic
MN CHW Certificate Holder
What do you do as a CHW?
I’m the Care Coordinator at People Incorporated – Family Life Mental Health Clinic. I work alongside a team of mental health practitioners & clinicians and provide advocacy on behalf of consumers to communicate their needs within the organization, as well as to outside organizations. A large part of my role is assisting consumers with connections to various community resources, including health insurance. I also initiate referrals for MNCHOICES assessments, case management services, vocational training, support services, and other mental health programs.
What has been your favorite part of being a CHW?
My favorite part of being a CHW has always been helping people connect to the resources and services they need. I also love when I can squeeze a smile or a laugh out of someone, just by being myself. I realize the people I serve are dealing with some very tough times; some might even be experiencing feelings of depression and hopelessness. To say or do something that makes someone laugh or smile during tough times warms my entire spirit.
What’s something most people don’t know about you?
Most people don’t know that I’m inspired and motivated by the people I serve and by the need I see for service in our communities.
I recently connected a consumer to a resource for a holiday food basket. She called me to personally tell me about her experience picking up the holiday food basket: “Ms. Vonyee, I want to thank you for putting me in contact with [the agency]. They had a holiday party. I met some nice people and had a wonderful time! The people there were so nice! I wasn’t expecting anything except to pick up food, and I received so much more! Thank you SO much!”
I, of course, knew ahead of time that a holiday party was included but I didn’t think it was an important detail to mention when I provided her with this resource. The smile and excitement in her voice over the phone was infectious; I was so happy that attending the party was a pleasant surprise for her– especially during the holiday season.
I’d like to start my first column of 2020 by thanking all of the Alliance’s partners, allies, stakeholders and funders as well as the Minnesota community health workers (MN CHWs) who supported our mission of building community and systems capacity for better health through the integration of CHW strategies in 2019. We honored the CHW motto, “Nothing About Us Without Us.”
As I reflect over the past year, I am wowed by the growth of the Alliance. I am also very proud of our successful ventures and hard work. Let me share a few of the Alliance’s many great accomplishments and activities in 2019:
- Moved the Alliance headquarters to new office space in Bloomington
- Provided our third leadership development institute training to 43 CHWs. We will offer the training to 60 CHWs from across the state beginning in Spring 2020—please see the article in this issue for more info and note that applications are due Feb 7, 2020
- Launched our monthly CHW Spotlight and highlighted six MN CHWs working in various areas of health care
- Organized and hosted a successful 2019 annual statewide conference and our second annual fundraiser breakfast
- Participated for the first time in MN Give to the Max Day
- Formed the Minnesota CHW Common Indicators Project as a subcommittee of our CHW Supervisors’ Roundtable and a regional affiliate of the national project
- Began to explore CHW registry development under the leadership of the Alliance’s Research and Policy Committee
- Welcomed new board members, tripling our number of CHWs on the board to six
- Engaged CHWs as lead group facilitators
- Attended the 2019 National Association of CHWs Conference in Las Vegas
- Presented a research poster on our CHW Leadership Development Institute at the 2019 APHA Annual Conference in Philadelphia
- Represented our state as a 2019 National CHW Ambassador
As you can see, we had a very exciting and productive year. Looking ahead, we will continue to focus on our key strategic areas. I look forward to bringing new statewide partners and allies to this important work. Plus, I want to build on and expand program offerings related to Education and Training, Field Building, Partnerships and Outreach, and Public Policy. By advancing CHW strategies and opportunities, we will help close gaps and promote health equity in our state.
In closing, I’d like to thank all of our past, present and future partners and send my very best wishes your way as we begin 2020. Happy New Year from the MN Community Health Worker Alliance!
Minnesota Community Health Worker Alliance
On December 4, members from the 10,000 Families Study joined us to present about their work and how it relates to the work of Community Health Workers. You can download the slides or check out the 10,000 Families Study website to learn more about their work.