Lynniece D. Scurry, Certified Community Health Worker for Healthcare Access Now, tells a compelling story of one community member who benefited from the work she does: A pregnant woman with two children had just arrived from out of state. She was supposed to have been staying with a friend, but they weren’t getting along.
“She was basically transient,” Scurry says, “And she was really upset because she didn’t know about any of the resources here.” Scurry immediately contacted shelters and got the woman connected with Bethany House Services. “There’s usually a waiting list, but it only took about five days.”
Working with the coordinator at Bethany House, Scurry set up a care plan for the woman. The woman had fled her home state because of domestic abuse, which also affected her children. Scurry connected the older child to Children’s Home for counseling.
“I helped her apply to subsidized housing, and within a month she was approved by CMHA [Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority]. I found her a primary care doctor, a pediatrician for her children, and a counselor to help with her depression and anxiety.
“I went to some appointments with her and let her know that she had support even though she was in Cincinnati without any family,” Scurry says.
Why did this woman who had been through so much trust Scurry? “I let my clients know I’m no different than them. I was a teen mother myself, pregnant at 18. I tell them I’m not here to be judgmental. I’m here to help.”
A calling that combines medicine and social work
Scurry says she has the “desire and compassion to help others in difficult circumstances overcome their obstacles.” She feels like the CHW job chose her. She talked with a career counselor when she was in school and said she aspired to do something in the medical field or in social work.
The career counselor recommended becoming a CHW, and that resonated with Scurry. “I recognized that this is what I’m really lined up to do. It was, in some ways, what I was already doing by helping out family members and friends.”
A CHW works to “improve the overall health and well-being of clients by providing them with resources like food, housing, and health insurance. We do face-to-face visits with [clients] and coordinate care to guide them to the necessary resources. We want to make certain they have a healthy life.”
Throughout her seven years as a CHW with HCAN, Scurry has learned that “experience takes time.” She says, “A lot of people, like my supervisor, took me under their wing, and I learned that I need to get out into the community myself, go to food pantries and various community events and network. Over time, experience started to build.”
Her goal is continuous improvement. “I never want to stop learning,” Scurry says. She keeps honing her skills, working especially at time management and effective communication.
Accomplishments, goals and looking forward
In 2014, Scurry was nominated for the Cradle of Cincinnati (Champion for Change) Award for her work in the community as a CHW. “I love knowing that I’m able to make an impact on someone’s life. It’s so rewarding to connect my clients to health and social services resources in the community.”
Scurry is excited about HCAN’s recently created Maternal Program, which follows clients through the first year of their new baby’s life. “Some of the clients I served [before this program was instituted] would come in during their third trimester, and I wasn’t able to do as much in such a short period of time.” She says having a full year to address issues benefits the clients enormously.
As for the client from out of state who Scurry helped stabilize in Cincinnati: She still texts to check in every now and then. “I consider that to be a success story. She’s doing much better,” she says.