May 25, 2017

Gerratana Leads Passage of Legislation Recognizing the Critical Work of Community Health Workers

SB 126 Establishes a Statutory Definition for “Community Health Workers”

Connecticut’s community health workers (CHW) will begin to get the recognition they deserve as result of legislation championed by Senator Terry Gerratana (D-New Britain). Today, Senator Gerratana led Senate passage of SB 126, which establishes in statute a definition for CHW and the roles and responsibilities they have.

“Barriers of language, culture and socioeconomic differences often prevent people from receiving the health care they need, and that is why community health workers are so important,” said Senator Gerratana. “These health outreach professionals are able to break down those barriers and improve health outcomes in underserved communities. This bill defines their role in statute, allowing the field and their impact on our healthcare landscape to grow.”

Community health workers are a vital part of the effort to eliminate health disparities in Connecticut. CHW are trusted members of their community, with a unique understanding of the experience, language, culture and socioeconomic needs of the people they serve. This understanding makes them highly effective at reaching underrepresented communities and ensuring that the people who live there receive the care they need. CHW help bridge cultural and socioeconomic gaps between caregivers and their patients. This has been shown to result in expanded access to services, more follow-up appointments and better health outcomes.

Establishing a statutory definition of CHW is needed to officially clarify their role and the scope of their practice, as well as the process by which a person can be certified and recognized as competent in their field. This will help develop the profession, increase the number of CHW and further integrate them into Connecticut’s public health system.

SB 126 defines a community health worker as “a public health outreach professional with an in-depth understanding of the experience, language, culture and socioeconomic needs of the community who:

  1. Serves as a liaison between individuals within the community and health care and social services providers to facilitate access to such services and health-related resources, improve the quality and cultural competence of the delivery of such services and address social determinants of health with a goal toward reducing racial, ethnic, gender and socioeconomic disparities, and
  2. Increases health knowledge and self-sufficiency through a range of services including outreach, engagement, education, coaching, informal counseling, social support, advocacy, care coordination, research related to social determinants of health and basic screenings and assessments of any risks associated with social determinants of health.”

Now that SB 126 has passed in the Senate, it moves to the House of Representatives for further consideration.