A new initiative at Juniata College is exploring what a community health worker program could look like in Central PA.

Madison Hearn is taking the new “community health worker training” class offered for the first time at Juniata College.

“Just knowing the lack of providers, access to health care is a big issue, whether it be getting to see a physician, weather it’s transportation,” Madison Hearn, Post Graduate Student, for Juniata College, said.

She says the new training educates students about grants available to patients in need of transportation. The grants come from organizations like “Community Action”, a nationwide non-profit. The money from these grants help pay for an Uber or Lyft to a doctor’s appointment.

It is also helping her learn how to find a health care provider for people in small towns.

Last year the Highmark Foundation gave Juniata College a $20,000 grant to start this health workers program.

That money goes to training staff, stipends for students and bringing in people to teach.

Hearn’s teacher, Sherri Platt, Director of Career Development, for the Area Health Education Center, says it will help students be advocates for patients.

“It’s actually bridging the gap with any of the barriers, that any of the community members or patients may face,” Platt, said.

She says students learn to help a patient understand what the doctor is telling them or to make sure a patient is taking the medication or vitamins they are advised to.

Hearn says they can also help patients get help from outside a clinic.

“Helping them apply for SNAP benefits if they’re having trouble affording health foods, helping them find local fitness resources,” Hearn, said.