On Monday, a crowd gathered in the Massachusetts State House’s Nurses Hall to call on the state to continue supporting community health workers (CHWs) and to recognize their value to the state’s medical infrastructure. Organized by the Massachusetts Association of Community Health Workers (MACHW), rally participants representing a number of different CHW programs came together to support the valuable work carried out by CHWs.

CHW rally at MA state house

Community health worker advocates listened to speakers and lobbied directly to legislators at the MA State House.

Staff from PIH’s PACT project – which trains CHWs to accompany vulnerable patients living with chronic diseases like HIV/AIDS and diabetes – participated in the day’s events.

Supporters listened to Sharon Henderson (MACHW Board Chair), Francisca Guevara (a CHW working at Joseph Smith Community Health Center) and State Representative Gloria Fox’s son who was speaking on her behalf. Speakers highlighted the cost effectiveness of integrating CHWs into routine medical care, highlighting the important role the group could play in eliminating certain barriers to care.

After the rally, representatives from various organizations met with legislators to lobby for continued support for CHWs at the state level. The group made three demands to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts:

  • Fund $2.5 million in FY 2013 for “Community Outreach & Access to Care Grants.” This money would support community organizations and health centers who employ CHWs. 
  • Commit, more generally, to funding public health and community health workers through payment reform and legislation currently in development. 
  • Maintain sufficient funding levels to cover essential benefits in Massachusett’s public health insurance program (Commonwealth Care, MassHealth).

In recent years, MACHW has made strides in incorporating CHWs into health care legislation. 

In September 2010, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed into law "An Act to Establish a Board of Certification of Community Health Workers" (Chapter 322 of the Acts of 2010). The law, which went into effect in January 2012, created a new board of certification of CHWs which will operate under the auspices of the state’s Department of Public Health's Division of Health Professions Licensure. 

Learn more about PIH’s Boston-based PACT program
Learn more about the Massachusetts Association of Community Health Workers