Federal funds to expand AAPI community health worker program

A Santa Clara program designed to mitigate healthcare obstacles for Asian American and Pacific Islander communities is now backed with $1 million in federal funding, announced county supervisors on Dec. 16.

The Asian/Pacific Islander Community Health Worker pilot program will work with local nonprofits and hire health workers to care for seven specific Asian communities in the county.

The funds were secured thanks to the leadership of Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., who included the county’s funding request in a federal spending bill approved in July 2021.

“API communities across America have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s essential that we deliver care to those who need it most,” said Khanna. “I’m proud to have played a part in securing this funding, which will support culturally appropriate medical care for Santa Clara County’s API communities.”

The program builds off of Simitian’s 2017 health assessment and implementation plan for the API community, which determined that there needed to be more linkages between clinical, behavioral health and community services for seven subgroups.

“We are grateful for Congressman Khanna’s support of our County’s efforts to improve the health, wellness, and resilience of Santa Clara County’s diverse communities,” said County Supervisor Joe Simitian in a statement. “I know we can do more with federal help.”

In 2020, county supervisors launched a three-year pilot to provide information on COVID-19, domestic violence and chronic disease in a culturally competent lens to the county’s AAPI community.

“My goal has always been to make sure that our Asian American and Pacific Islander residents can quickly access the healthcare they need in a way that’s culturally appropriate, and in an environment where they feel safe and comfortable,” said Simitian. “That’s how we address the long-standing healthcare disparities facing these communities — and improve health outcomes for the entire community.”

Currently the program has 13 health workers helping community members with healthcare insurance, blood pressure management, mental health and food security, among other services.

Organized by Asian Americans for Community Involvement, the program works with a diverse array of AAPI-serving organizations to serve hundreds of residents. They’ve worked alongside other organizations to host vaccination events, pop-up clinics and bystander intervention training for hate crimes.

“Ultimately, it’s not just about what can be done now, but doing what we can now to ensure this effort is built to last and offers long-term health solutions,” said Rhonda McClinton-Brown, deputy director of Santa Clara County’s Public Health Department.

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