Since the beginning of the pandemic, Amber Webb and Yesenia “Yesi” Olvera have helped hundreds of families in the community by implementing a COVID-19 Wraparound Services Program at Neighborhood Health Center, as part of the clinical outcomes department.
These two Community Health Workers (CHW) continuously go above and beyond to support community members who are unable to work while in quarantine or otherwise affected by the COVID pandemic.
With the support of a community grant from the Oregon Health Authority, the COVID-19 Wraparound Services Program has brought food, rent and utility assistance, medication, and other basic services to 800 Oregon families.
When the program was first implemented in 2021, Amber and Yesi without hesitation stepped in to assist community members, listening to their concerns and exhausting all options in search of ways to assist.
“Amber and Yesi help people to stay fed and housed during a really difficult time in their lives,” says Dr. Jenna Wilson-Crain, Director of Clinical Outcomes,“ and this positively impacts the community that we all live in.”
Because health care is more than just providing in-office care but is about ensuring that people have the resources that they need to recover from COVID such as food and housing, Yesi and Amber work hard to meet patients and community members where they are at in their lives. This often involves conducting phone interviews outside of normal clinic operating hours.
“Amber and Yesi have been exceedingly flexible in providing emergency services for people affected by COVID within 24 hours of notification from the county,” says Dr. Wilson. “This ensures that individuals do not fall through the cracks and receive the food or housing support that they need.”
The Membership and Engagement Services Manager, Shae Ballenger, says they both use their lived experiences to understand and meet patients and community members where they are, leading with empathetic hearts to help those who need services.
“When they are met with a problem or challenge they do not know how to move forward with, they collaborate with team members to learn and understand how best to serve the community, eager to learn new things that will better a patient’s situation and take the time to listen and chip away the barriers patients are faced with. Their goals are not to solve the problem for the patient but to teach them how to be independent and sustainable and remove any barriers along the way.”
“Amber and Yesi help people to stay fed and housed during a really difficult time in their lives and this positively impacts the community that we all live in.”
-Dr. Jenna Wilson-Crain, Director of Clinical Outcomes, Neighborhood Health Center
Prior to her role as a CHW, Amber was a Certified Medical Assistant who would often try to navigate connecting patients to other social services while simultaneously assisting their provider with regular tasks such as rooming or drawing blood. After spending so much time helping sick patients in the clinics, she decided to focus on prevention through the Community Health Worker program. Now she leads the NHC CHW team.
Yesi, on the other hand, brings a passion to help others and lived experience in the local Hispanic community to their work. Her fluency in Spanish is particularly meaningful to the families she supports. Many families helped through this program are Spanish speaking, including undocumented and migrant families, who might be hesitant to seek out services were it not for Yesi.
One family that really impacted Yesi was referred to NHC after recently moving from California. The family needed help enrolling in the Oregon Health Plan, a frequent task the Membership and Engagement Services team handles, but Yesi spent almost two months supporting the family, connecting them with food banks, and enrolling the children in school. At the time, this was outside of the scope of work she would normally do, but Yesi took the time to help the mother enroll her children in school, connected them to the lunch program. Two years later, the mother reached out to Yesi to express her gratitude and how much this help meant to her family.
Yesi recognizes how language barriers can negatively affect a family’s ability to receive assistance. This has inspired her to begin a new project at NHC –assisting patients in addressing their social determinants of health and improving their quality of life. Her efforts will only benefit her team in the future, as they evolve to support and address community needs.
Amber and Yesi’s dedication to the community ensures patients’ needs are met, regardless of their ability to visit the clinic. In total, nearly3,000 community members have received support through this small team, which continues to receive community grants to support its success. Amber and Yesi continue to advocate for the needs of community members impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and continue to assist in meeting those needs in any way they can.
Amber and Yesi’s passion for aiding the community and taking the time to listen to patient needs and concerns embodies the values, mission, and spirit of Community Health Centers. Their efforts to address local health needs by providing access to vital services is a patient-first model, allowing for more collaborative, high-quality, whole-person care for NHC patients and community members.
–Submission made by Victoria Michael, Communications Manager, Neighborhood Health Center