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The funding will help community organizations turn volunteers earning a stipend into full-time salaried staff.

COURTESY PHOTO: WASHINGTON COUNTY - Washington County's mobile vaccine team sits at the Forest Grove Farmers Market.Washington County is spending $2 million in federal funds to break down barriers to health care.

The money will be spread across a dozen local organizations to help build a network of community health workers who bridge language, transportation, information and other divides that hinder the Latino community's ability to reach vaccines and doctors appointments.

For Forest Grove nonprofit Adelante Mujeres, the funding will help turn a couple volunteers earning a stipend into full-time salaried staff.

"Part of the goal is that by working in collaboration, we can share services and opportunities. A promoter from Beaverton might not have the same information as one from Forest Grove," said Anabertha Alvarado Martinez, who coordinates a program of volunteer community health care workers — or "promotores de salud," in Spanish — for Adelante Mujeres, in a news release. "Before this grant, I was the only staff person to coordinate our community health worker team. Having two additional promotores allows us to follow families and provide them with resources, rather than just providing one-time information about vaccines or COVID."

Bienestar, which provides affordable housing and services to 2.300 Washington County residents, also said in the release it will be able to hire its first full-time community health worker after previously relying on a team of volunteers.

The new community health workers are forming the Washington County Community Health Worker Learning Collaborative to develop culturally-appropriate COVID-19 training materials, dispel misinformation and provide education and resources about vaccination, testing and other COVID-19 prevention and treatment services. The growing network has already reached more than 7,000 people in Washington County, according to a news release from the county.

The money for the grants came from a nearly $4 million award from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Minority Health to Washington County as part of an initiative to enhance health literacy, a person's ability to find, understand and use information and services to help them make health-related decision

"We believe that improving health literacy and knowledge will also improve access and use of COVID-19 services and resources among the Latinx community, and ultimately improve health outcomes," said Armando Jimenez, senior program coordinator with Washington County Health Equity, Planning and Policy.

In addition to Adelante Mujeres and Bienestar, grant recipients include Centro Cultural de Washington County, Doulas Latinas International, Familias En Accion, Neighborhood Health Center, Oregon Child Development Coalition, Oregon Spinal Cord Injury Connection, Project Access Now, Providence Promotores de Salud de La Iglesia, Unite Oregon and Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center.

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