Nevada: Trained Community Health Workers Help Patients Get Medical Care

Nevadans’ access to healthcare has declined because of a serious shortage of primary care doctors across the state. A community health worker (CHW) can help bridge this gap for patients seeking care during healthcare provider shortages, which have become a persistent problem in Nevada. A CHW is a frontline public health worker who is a trusted member of the community and understands how to serve residents. The CHW’s relationship with the community helps link residents to services like medical screenings and health education classes. The Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health (NDPBH) used Preventive Health and Health Services (PHHS) Block Grant funds to establish its CHW initiative. The groundwork for the project helped lead to the passage of a new statewide CHW policy and the development of a CHW professional training curriculum.

The CHW initiative started in 2013 by implementing the first CHW curriculum in Nevada. In 2015, Senate Bill 498 (SB 498) passed; this law allows the Bureau of Health Care Quality and Compliance to establish guidelines and oversight on licensure of CHW bodies and helps establish standards for the qualifications, scope of work, and training of CHWs. SB 498 also makes sure that public health practices are carried out consistently statewide.

Since 2014, Nevada’s Truckee Meadows Community College conducted five CHW in-person courses and graduated 86 students from the program. In 2015, the state created a blended training program consisting of two in-person classes and six online core training modules. More than 100 students graduated by the end of 2016.

NDPBH also partnered with the Nevada Primary Care Association (NVPCA) to determine need for a formal state CHW association. NVPCA surveyed approximately 400 potential association members in August 2015. More than 63% of survey respondents wanted a CHW association that focused on training and certification, a reimbursement system for CHW services, and education for the community on the role of CHWs. On the basis of NVPCA recommendations and survey responses, NDPBH formed a CHW association in 2016.

Building on its initial steps to improve Nevadans’ access to medical care, NDPBH will continue to address healthcare shortages and improve residents’ health through its expanding professional CHW workforce.

Story year: 2015

The picture shows a community health worker and a patient.

Nevada used PHHS Block Grant funding for its Community Health Worker Initiative, which links residents with medical care.

Page last reviewed: May 24, 2018