Pritzker announces new program to help those most impacted by COVID

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(WEHT) Governor Pritzker has announced a new Pandemic Health Navigator Program (PHNP) launched in partnership with the Illinois Public Health Association (IPHA), the Illinois Primary Health Care Association (IPHCA), and OSF Healthcare System.

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. 

“When someone tests positive for COVID-19, or comes in contact with someone else who has, Pandemic Health Navigators are there, ready to assist with social service supports, personal care education, vaccine access, and even critical logistics like ensuring access to groceries and food when a person has to isolate,” said Gov. Pritzker.

“In short, our Pandemic Health Navigators are a crucial part of keeping our most vulnerable residents safe, and I’m so grateful to all of them.” 

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) 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 (FQHCs) 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.  

Earlier this year, PHNP began efforts to equip community-based organizations (CBOs) and federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) 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. 

“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.  

For more information about the program and to connect to a local community health worker, visit www.HelpGuideThrive.org.   

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