Baltimore Hiring Community Health Workers for Contact Tracing, Care Coordination

June 4, 2020
$12 million public-private partnership seeks to address city’s interconnected economic, public health crises caused by the pandemic

The City of Baltimore has announced plans to recruit, train, and employ more than 300 residents who are currently jobless during the pandemic to serve as community health workers and contact tracers for Baltimore City residents. Baltimore Health Corps staff will be deployed to address critical Covid-19 needs in Baltimore’s most vulnerable communities, performing three key functions: contact tracing, public health education outreach, and care coordination and social support.

On June 4, Mayor Bernard “Jack” Young, the Baltimore City Health Department, the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development, and The Rockefeller Foundation announced the launch of the $12.4 million pilot program designed to address the city’s interconnected economic and public health crises caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Baltimore Health Corps is first-of-its-kind because it will target hiring individuals who have recently lost their jobs due to the pandemic and live in communities hardest hit by Covid-19 as community health workers, including those without previous healthcare experience,” said Mayor Young in a statement. “All 300-plus members of the Baltimore Health Corps will receive a living wage and a stipend for health insurance to serve as full-time, trusted contact tracers and care coordinators in our communities. I am grateful to this extraordinary coalition of philanthropists and operating partners who have worked tirelessly to launch this groundbreaking model in Baltimore City.”

Over the next year, the Baltimore Health Corps will onboard and support hundreds of recently unemployed or out-of-work Baltimore residents in building careers as community health workers. The city is recruiting 276 community health workers, including 38 supervisors, for these roles. In addition, there are seven employment development, seven managerial, and 10 administrative roles hiring now.

Controlling the Spread of Covid-19

The Baltimore Health Corps will expand the city’s existing COVID-19 contact-tracing system, enabling the Baltimore City Health Department to reach communities with a depth of service not currently possible. In addition to contact tracing, workers will also assist with public health outreach and education. In Baltimore, nearly 30 percent of households lack a home internet subscription, and proactive, creative messaging and outreach will be necessary to provide accurate information regarding COVID-19 and to build community trust. Deployment of community health workers into communities will start virtually and occur in-person only when safe to do so based on rates of community transmission and the availability of personal protective equipment.

Serving the Social Needs of Baltimore’s Most Vulnerable

The Baltimore Health Corps also will address the social needs of Baltimore’s most vulnerable populations such as older adults, those uninsured, and those who are pregnant and have young children through enhanced care coordination through existing nonprofit groups. The Baltimore Health Corps will develop a core referral system for residents who are Covid-19-positive or need additional assistance during the pandemic. It will also develop a focused inventory of high-value Covid-19 essential service referral resources to empower care coordination services. Lastly, it will provide essential care coordination services for older adults, those uninsured, and those who are pregnant or have young children.

The Rockefeller Foundation committed an initial $2 million to the Baltimore Civic Fund for the pilot and is working with the city to recruit additional funding partners. The city has made a $4.5 million commitment to support this initiative, tapping into its CARES Act Funds.  Additional private funders have contributed more than $2.3 million in support and include the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield (CareFirst), the France-Merrick Foundation, the Goldseker Foundation, OSI – Baltimore, the PepsiCo Foundation, the Rauch Foundation, the Stulman Foundation, and the T. Rowe Price Foundation. The Baltimore City Health Department, Jhpiego, the Mayor’s Office for Employment Development, Baltimore Corps, HealthCare Access Maryland, and the Baltimore Civic Fund are partnering to operate the initiative. The total cost of the initiative is $12.4 million, and the City will continue to raise the remaining $3.5 million as the pilot gets underway.

“The Baltimore Health Corps is the type of collaborative and innovative solution that we need right now,” said Dr. Rajiv J. Shah, president of The Rockefeller Foundation, in a statement. “By putting the community at the very core of this approach, the pilot will support the city’s public health and economic needs while serving as a model that can be adapted and scaled in cities across America.”

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