Success with CHWs: Mental Health Services

CHW education & training

AnneWillaertSmallIn Minnesota, CHW education includes:

  1. Standardized, competency-based education based in higher education
  2. On-the-job training
  3. Continuing education

Together they provide a strong educational framework for the CHW profession.

Minnesota is the first state in the U.S. with a statewide, competency-based CHW educational program based in accredited post-secondary schools. The 14-credit program is a blend of classroom and field-based learning for those who have a high school diploma or GED, at a minimum. The curriculum is designed to articulate with other health professions preparation programs in nursing and allied health so that it is an educational pathway—not a dead-end.

Introduced in 2005, the program content has already been revised once, in 2010. Future revisions will reflect broad input and the growth of CHW models in a variety of health care, human services and community settings.

This course provides CHWs with an introduction to mental health and illness. Emphasis is on the CHW role in promoting mental health across cultures and decreasing the stigma of mental illness. Specific knowledge and skills focus on recognizing possible signs of mental illness and early intervention, being aware of the ethical and legal aspects of working with clients with mental illness, identifying mental health resources, referring clients and assisting them with access to resources. This course also provides opportunities for the CHW to promote the mental health of self, clients, families and communities.

For more information, see the Minnesota CHW Curriculum (PDF). This nationally-recognized curriculum was developed at Minnesota State University, Mankato, with generous grant support. Under the auspices of the Healthcare Education Industry Partnership, a statewide, multi-disciplinary, cross-sector group including CHWs first created Minnesota’s CHW scope of practice and then developed and piloted the competency-based curriculum. For additional background, download the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation’s 2010 report on Community health workers in Minnesota (PDF).

In addition, the National Council for Behavioral Health offers CHW training to expand the skills of existing community health workers in providing services to people with mental illness and addiction disorders, in addition to physical health challenges.