Fort Lupton, CO – To expand the capacity of community health centers to meet the anticipated increase in demand for care, the RCHN Community Health Foundation (RCHN CHF) has awarded $2 million in grants to recruit, train and retain health center workers such as medical assistants, receptionists, care managers, and health system navigators. These workers are typically a patient’s first and primary connection to their health care provider and essential to a health center’s operations.

Salud Family Health Centers (Salud) in Fort Lupton, which serves 73,000 patients at nine sites, is one of only five federally qualified community health centers (CHCs) around the country to receive a RCHN CHF worker training grant this year. The $200,000 award will allow Salud to develop a training program for entry-level medical staff – such as medical assistants, front-desk representatives, and community health navigators – that will increase the number of skilled health care workers available and better prepare current staff for health system changes.

“We are thrilled to receive this award that will help us to create a career path for young people interested in community health,” said Jerry Brasher, Chief Executive Officer of Salud. “To increase access to health care, we need to be able to attract and train the support staff who keep our health centers running smoothly and ensure high quality care for our diverse community of patients.”

Working in partnership with the Colorado Community Health Network, the Tri-County Health Department, and the Adams County Workforce Center, Salud has developed the Medical Staff College Project (MSC Project), a training program that will be designed to meet the unique operational needs of CHCs. The MSC project, which is intended to meet the state requirements for a Professional Occupational School, will utilize classroom instruction, clinical internships and digital modalities to enhance staff skill and strengthen the health center’s capacity to meet increased demand.

“Our ability to meet a greater demand for health care falls squarely on our system’s ability to increase capacity,” said Julio Bellber, President and CEO of RCHN CHF. “That means we must prepare our nation’s 1,200 community health centers to recruit, train, and retain workers who can meet increased patient care needs.”

CHCs such as Salud are located in underserved communities where challenges to recruiting and retaining a skilled workforce often include a limited labor pool, lack of vocational training, and language and cultural barriers. Yet, our nation relies on community health centers to provide care to more than 22 million people each year, and that number is expected to increase dramatically when the Affordable Care Act takes full effect in 2014.

To this end, RCHN CHF awarded $1 million in worker training grants to five health centers in 2012, with a second million to five more centers this year. In addition to Salud, the 2013 RCHN CHF workforce initiative grant recipients are:

  • CareSouth Carolina, Hartsville, South Carolina – $199,308
  • El Rio Community Health Center, Tucson, Arizona – $198,467
  • Finger Lakes Community Health, Penn Yan, New York – $200,000
  • OneWorld Community Health Centers , Omaha, Nebraska – $189,343

Plan de Salud del Valle, Inc. (Salud Family Health Centers) was founded in 1970 in response to critical health needs of the migrant farmworker population in the Fort Lupton, Colorado area. Today, 42 years later, Salud has evolved into an extensive primary health care delivery system that provides integrated primary care services which reduce emergency use, improves the health of communities and provides access to quality, affordable health care services to populations in need. Salud provides care to all people and does not turn patients away based on finances, insurance coverage or ability to pay. 

The RCHN Community Health Foundation is a not-for-profit operating foundation established to support community health centers through strategic investment, outreach, education, and cutting-edge health policy research. The only foundation in the U.S. dedicated solely to community health centers, RCHN CHF builds on a long-standing commitment to providing accessible, high-quality, community-based healthcare services for underserved and medically vulnerable populations.