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Chicago Community Health Response Core launches with 11 CBOs

ChiTracing Corps members canvas door-to-door in Chicago's Englewood neighborhood to promote COVID-19 vaccine access.

The Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership (The Partnership) recently announced the 11 community-based organizations (CBOs) that will serve as local employers for the City of Chicago’s Community Health Response Corps (Response Corps). Through a competitive process, the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) awarded a grant of $19.2 million to The Partnership to serve as the Corps’ lead coordinating organization.  The UIC School of Public Health is a key partner in this project.

The new Response Corps will leverage the expertise and infrastructure CDPH and its partners built for the COVID-19 emergency response – with a focus now on promoting overall health, resilience, and well-being. The Response Corps will have an expanded scope to help residents access reliable information, recovery supports such as economic and social programs and services, and specific health resources. Its emphasis will be on chronic disease prevention and community health outreach, health literacy, and resource navigation, complementing CDPH’s strategic plan, Healthy Chicago 2025. CDPH seeks to sustain community outreach and public health workforce development through the Response Corps to residents in priority community areas most affected by the pandemic.

“Among the many lessons we learned from the pandemic, we realized the true value and positive impact of trusted, community partners in healthcare,” said Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot. “I am proud to expand our pandemic response to promote overall health and wellbeing throughout our city so that we can truly be equitable and thriving. I’m grateful for The Partnership’s continued work to strategically reach and employ residents from all walks of life and further healthy outcomes.”

“We’ve been so pleased to build off of the amazing work done during COVID to create the Community Health Response Corps,” said CDPH Commissioner Allison Arwady, MD. “With new funding and expanded focus, this Corps will provide ongoing employment opportunities in communities that need them most, and alleviate the disparities amplified by COVID. We know this hyperlocal work of trusted messengers and established community-based organizations will create a more equitable, safe, resilient, and healthy Chicago.”

The 11 CBOs competitively selected to serve as the local employers of up to 150 Corps-member community health workers and supervisors are listed below:

  • Alliance Care 360 (formerly Brothers Health Collective)
  • Calumet Area Industrial Commission
  • Centers for New Horizons
  • Central States SER
  • Greater West Town Project
  • Habilitative Services, Inc.
  • KLEO Center
  • Phalanx Family Services
  • Puerto Rican Cultural Center
  • SGA Youth and Family Services
  • The Resurrection Project

“We are honored to be again selected for this incredibly impactful work and we look forward to continuing to assist residents and CBOs in meeting the region’s healthcare challenges,” said The Partnership’s Interim CEO Patrick Combs. “We have learned the importance of weaving workforce development into this public health work, as most contact tracers had no healthcare experience before joining the City’s COVID-19 Contact Tracing Corps, and the majority are now passionate about community health and working in their communities.”

Along with SPH, Sinai Urban Health Institute, Malcolm X College, and the Illinois Community Health Workers Association are partners in this work. They will create an Earn-and-Learn program allowing Corps members to use 7.5 hours per week of paid work time towards a pre-approved Earn-and-Learn pathway of a public health, healthcare or in-demand industry career. Corps members will receive regular professional development from their CBO employer and The Partnership’s network. The curriculum will include trauma-informed service delivery and self-care, customer service skills, epidemiology, chronic disease, public health literacy, and other COVID-19 and public health-related topics including soft and hard-skill training.

CDPH is charged with supporting Chicago’s response to and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. As outlined in Healthy Chicago 2025, the citywide community health improvement plan, CDPH is focused on closing the racial life expectancy gap in Chicago by addressing the root causes of health, including access to care and services. To meet these needs, CDPH requires a public health workforce to conduct community health outreach, education, and support in navigating recovery and health-promoting resources.

In 2020, The Partnership received a grant from the City of Chicago and CDPH to serve as the lead coordinating organization of the City’s COVID-19 Contact Tracing Corps, with training created by faculty and students at the UIC School of Public Health. Through a competitive process, The Partnership then identified 31 CBOs to serve as the local employers, ensuring the contact tracers lived in or near the City’s hardest-hit communities. Under The Partnership’s leadership, in collaboration with its partners, 600+ Chicagoans were hired, trained in an Earn-and-Learn program through City Colleges of Chicago, and successfully served as the community-based, on-the-ground backbone of Chicago’s COVID-19 response. As contact tracers and outreach workers, they handled more than 500,000 calls, knocked on more than 19,000 doors, and provided resource coordination to over 3,000 Chicagoans. More than 96 percent of these Corps members were Black or Latinx, and almost 90 percent lived in the hardest-hit communities.

Learn more about SPH's Collaboratory for Health Justice