Skip To Content
September 30, 2022

Asian American Center to get $2.4M to train community health workers

Credit: Frederick News-Post, Angela Roberts

The Asian American Center of Frederick will get $2.4 million as part of a $225 million fund in the American Rescue Plan Act to train community health workers across the country.

The money will be used to help train more than 13,000 community health workers nationwide, the White House announced Friday. Maryland organizations will get $8 million.

The Asian American Center of Frederick, which supports and advocates for immigrants and low-income people in Frederick County, is among 80 organizations nationwide that will get American Rescue Plan funding to help expand the country’s community health workforce.

The Asian American Center will train about 150 community health workers over the next three years.

In towns and cities across the country, community health workers help smooth communication between health care providers and the people they serve.

They play an important role in reducing health inequities exacerbated by racism, xenophobia and other forms of prejudice and discrimination.

In Frederick County, the Asian American Center will try to increase the diversity of the public health workforce by recruiting from the underserved communities where they will work.

“That’s a piece of being trusted members of the community — the community will be more likely to listen to you,” Elizabeth Chung, the nonprofit’s executive director, said in an interview on Thursday. “And you’ll be more likely to know how to talk to them.”

The pandemic has made clear why a racially diverse community health workforce is needed, Gene Sperling, the White House American Rescue Plan coordinator and a senior adviser to the president, said Friday at the news conference, which was live streamed.

Research has shown that it leads to stronger, more racially equitable health outcomes, Sperling said.

The new community health workers trained with American Rescue Plan money will greatly assist residents dealing with COVID-19, as well as those with substance use or mental health problems, and people who need help managing chronic diseases, said Carole Johnson, administrator of the federal Health Resources and Services Administration.

“We know, and we consistently say, that health care doesn’t just happen in the clinic,” she said. “Health care happens in the community.”

The American Rescue Plan Act sets aside $1.1 billion for community health, outreach and health education workers — a historic one-time investment in the country’s community health workforce, Sperling said.

The Asian American Center of Frederick started training community health workers through a certificate-based program in 2015. It was the first of its kind in Frederick County, according to the center’s website.

Since then, the center has trained more than 100 community health workers, Chung said. The American Rescue Plan money will help it at least double the community health workforce in Frederick County.

Over the next three years, the Asian American Center will train two cohorts, of about 75 people each. Chung said she expects three-quarters of those recruited to complete the training, and a quarter of that group to complete an additional apprenticeship program.

Program participants will receive a stipend to help with child care and transportation expenses, Chung said.

Nine employers — including Frederick Health, the Housing Authority of the City of Frederick and an adult day care center — have lined up to hire community health workers after they’re certified, Chung said.

The Asian American Center of Frederick plans to provide cultural competency training in two directions.

Newcomers to the country who participate — including, Chung hopes, refugees from Afghanistan, Ukraine and Ethiopia — will get a crash course in American culture and customs.

The center will also help employers that encounter communication breakdowns because of cultural differences.

U.S. Rep. David Trone, D, who spoke during the press conference, praised the Asian American Center for supporting immigrants and low-income Marylanders.

“You need to focus on those in the shadows, and that’s what this grant helps us do,” he said.