“When we started to work at home on March 16, our team thought it would only be for a few weeks,” explained Ilda Hernández, Community Health Worker and part of Enlace’s Community Health Team.
Adjusting to a new way of working was a challenge for the team, which had previously carried out 100% of its activities in-person. “We had to adapt and try to find ways to continue to support our community and, above all, share resources,” explains Ilda. Early on, they had to find ways to assist community members with Medicaid and SNAP/LINK card applications without being able to make in-person appointments. At the end of April, the State created an authorization form that allowed the Community Health Workers/ Promotoras de Salud to receive consent to be able to fill out the Medicaid application on behalf of participants. However, they are not allowed to do this for LINK applications. “For the LINK card, we guide applicants over the phone. We support them step by step as they fill out each section while we look at the application on our computers. We have done the same with the Pandemic EBT applications,” explains Ilda.
The Promotoras have also adjusted how they facilitate activities. The GEMAS women’s support groups are using Zoom to meet and share their experiences during the pandemic. Initially, groups were meeting every two weeks but, in response to requests from participants, some now meet once a week. "These groups have provided an important source of support for the women in our community, who have had to juggle helping their children with remote learning and keeping the household running."
La Villita and COVID-19
"Our community has been highly impacted by COVID-19," says Ilda. Since March, the team has referred community members to local clinics for COVID-19 testing and has also suggested reaching out to the people that they have had contact with in the case of positive test results to encourage their contacts to get tested and self-quarantine. They follow up after each interaction, as “we have always followed up with the people who receive our services…We know that many people need emergency funds and we have supported Enlace's effort to help people who are having a hard time during this pandemic,” explains Ilda. Amalia is a young mother, who was in her first pregnancy when she was infected by COVID-19 together with her husband. She and her husband spent a few days in the hospital and when her baby was born, he was in an incubator for a week. This family received no economic stimulus check from the government and did not have sufficient resources for the arrival of their baby boy. Recently, the family was one of the recipients of Enlace’s Emergency Fund and is at home, healthy, with their baby boy.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 has also resulted in high hospital bills. The health team has been advocating to ensure that hospitals send these bills directly to the government's financial assistance programs that can cover the cost, instead of sending them to patients. "It has been a complicated job, but we keep working at it," Amanda Benitez, Director of Community Health, tell us.
Since March, the health team has had about 50 phone interactions each day. Despite the fact that face-to-face services have been suspended, the work has not stopped and the desire to support and share information remains stronger than ever.