COCC awarded $383,000 grant to strengthen public health workforce

A recently announced $50,000 endowment and $383,000 grant that combines equal funding from Deschutes County and the Central Oregon Health Council (COHC) will support a large public health workforce initiative taking shape in Central Oregon Community College (COCC).

Retired physicians Dr. Durlin Hickok and Dr. Carol Wallace created a $50,000 endowment for community health workers through the COCC Foundation and donated $20,000 to start a program internships with local agencies.

Together, the scholarships, endowment, and donation will support student recruitment, training development, scholarship support, paid internships, and an increased focus on careers in public health.

“The pandemic has put a strain on public health. The newly trained workers will fill an immediate need for entry-level public health positions,” said Dr. Sarah Baron, grant project leader, assistant professor of public health at the COCC and member of the workforce development group. implementation of the community colleges of the State Traditional Health Workers Commission. “Through this initiative, made possible by Deschutes County and the COHC, we expect to increase the number of people interested in careers in public health with the goal of placing 140 people in the health care workforce. public over two years to provide relief in the event of a pandemic.”

Last fall, the COCC successfully launched a six-credit training course for community health workers, designed to meet all of the Oregon Health Authority’s guidelines for certification-ready specialty.

The new funding will expand this training, add six-credit specialized peer support training to work with people in recovery from mental health, and support scholarships for students to complete these trainings.

Additionally, grant dollars will help design work placements, shaped in consultation with an advisory working group, and provide 45 paid stipends of $400 per term.

“Public health and equitable access to health services have always been important priorities for Carol and me,” Dr. Hickok said, commenting on the endowment he and his wife established. “COCC has the only program in central Oregon to train community health workers who are integral to reaching the populations most in need.”

The investment will also expand the role of the CCOC Health Careers Recruiter, increasing the hours of the position and emphasizing bilingual and bicultural recruitment.

“This is truly a community-wide collaboration, which will strengthen our region’s public health workforce and help connect many people to meaningful careers,” added Baron.

Inputs and advice, she noted, have come from many partners, such as the Deschutes County Public Health Advisory Council, East Cascades Works, PacificSource and others.

“The pandemic has shown how critical it is to have a strong public health workforce,” said Deschutes County Commissioner Phil Chang. “This program will help strengthen local public health services.


Michael A. Bynum