Singleton Bill To Establish Program To Link Medically Underserved Communities With Health Care Advances

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Troy Singleton that would establish the “New Jersey Community Health Worker Program” in the Department of Health to help link medically-underserved communities with health care resources cleared the Senate Health, Human Services, and Senior Citizens Committee today.

“Access to health care is a basic human right, one that shouldn’t be determined by where one does or doesn’t live,” said Senator Singleton (D-Burlington). “The purpose of this program is clear – to educate and train health care providers, who are on the front lines in underserved communities, and often face unique obstacles. By creating a uniform health worker training and certification program in New Jersey’s institutions of higher education, we are setting a standard for training so that everyone receives the same level of care.”

The bill, S-61, would establish standardized community health worker training and certification programs within institutions of higher education, and integrate community health worker services into State Medicaid reimbursement programs for the purposes of improving health outcomes, reducing health care costs, and reducing inequities in the availability and provision of health care services. The goal of the bill would be to establish the program statewide no later than five years after the effective date.

The Commissioner of Health would appoint a director of the program, who, in consultation with the New Jersey Community Health Worker Program Advisory Board, would oversee and administer the program. The responsibilities of the board would be to assist the director to develop training and certification programs, identify medically underserved communities and the unique challenges facing those communities in obtaining access to health care, and develop strategies for effectively implementing the program.

The board would be comprised of nine appointed members. The members would include the Commissioners of Health and of Human Services, or their designees, who would serve as ex officio, and seven public members.  Three of those members would be appointed by the Governor, and one each would be appointed by the Senate President, Speaker of the Assembly, Senate Minority Leader, and Assembly Minority Leader.  The public members would include three representatives of community health centers, with one each from the Southern, Central, and Northern regions of the State, one representative from a general hospital, one representative from a long-term care facility, one representative from a two-year institution of higher education, and one representative from a four-year institution of higher education.

The bill was released from committee with a vote of 8-0, and next heads to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee for further consideration. 

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