Kentucky gets $4.19 million to expand AmeriCorps work in public health, with the hope it will funnel more people into such work

Kentucky has received nearly $4.2 million to expand the public-health role of the AmeriCorps program in the state. The grant comes from the American Rescue Plan Act, last year’s pandemic relief bill.
“This funding will support the recruitment, training and development of a new generation of public health leaders,” Gov. Andy Beshear said in a news release. “The funding will support the addition of community health workers with coordination from Serve Kentucky, the agency committed to engaging Kentuckians in volunteerism and service to positively impact our communities.”
This new public health initiative is the result of a partnership between AmeriCorps and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nationwide, the initiative will fund up to 5,000 public-health positions over the next five years.
Public Health AmeriCorps will help meet public-health needs of local communities by providing surge capacity and support while also creating pathways to public health-related careers, says the release.
Health Commissioner Steven Stack pointed to the many public-health challenges caused by the pandemic, noting that it has been “neither easy nor without loss” to get to our current low rates of transmission.
“This grant allows us to plan for future public health emergency responses,” he said. “Creating a standing corps of public health personnel to manage surge capacity and respond to crises will enable Team Kentucky to stand ready to support Kentuckians when emergencies arise.”
Funding from the grant will  to the Kentucky Health Departments Association and Family Scholar House. 
The KHDA will get $1,367,986 to add 75 AmeriCorps members as community health workers in local health departments. They will work in programs such as the Health Access Nurturing Development Services, (HANDS), the Women, Infant and Children (WIC) program, and harm-reduction programs.

AmeriCorps members will not replace any existing health-department staffers, Susan Dunlap, spokeswoman for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, told Kentucky Health News in an e-mail.

“AmeriCorps members will be used to bolster the local public health workforce in Kentucky to expand the number of services delivered at local health departments currently available,” Dunlap said. “Additionally, AmeriCorps members will receive training to become certified as community health workers, which are in short supply at local health departments throughout Kentucky.”
Family Scholar House, which oversees the annual grant competition that awards funding to AmeriCorps State and other community service programs, says it works to provide a comprehensive, holistic continuum of care for low-income families and youth to help them reach their educational, career and family goals. It will get $2,825,124 to offer additional services.
Dunlap said, “FSH applied for the grant due to their familiarity with AmeriCorps, and because the grant will enable participants to receive training and support to enter the public-health field (in addition to the living allowance and education award) – which aligns with FSH’s priorities of health, educational support, and career pathways.”
FSH’s grant will allow it to leverage 200 AmeriCorps members who will provide health-care support to seniors and disabled individuals in health care facilities across Kentucky, says the news release.

“FSH AmeriCorps member activities will include support with basic clinical assistance, activities for socialization, infection control, and dietary and patient services,” said Dunlap. “FSH AmeriCorps members will develop their healthcare knowledge and complete credentialing coursework—enabling them to work in memory care, skilled nursing, assisted living, and other healthcare related environments.”

Eric Friedlander, secretary of the cabinet, which administers and oversees Serve Kentucky, said this initiative will serve as a steppingstone to get more people into the public-health field.
“After their year of service, we expect more than 200 AmeriCorps members will pursue future engagement in the public-health sector,” Friedlander said in the release. “AmeriCorps and the CDC believe that Public Health AmeriCorps provides a unique way to expose those interested in learning more about public health and its various careers.”
Joe Bringardner, executive director of Serve Kentucky, said, “Adults of all ages and education backgrounds are eligible to serve in Public Health AmeriCorps.”
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