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community health fund


Contra Costa Health Careers Pathway Initiative

contra costa

Central and East Contra Costa County have numerous health care facilities (hospitals, long-term care facilities, community clinics, and others), a shortage of trained people to staff those facilities, and a large number of unskilled, low-income residents seeking jobs. The combination presents a unique opportunity to better meet the health care needs of the area’s MediCal patients, while also providing a career pathway for individuals who may not be able to achieve economically sustainable employment without broad professional, educational, and personal support.

To take full advantage of this opportunity, in 2018 the Community Health Fund provided a grant of $200,135 to Empowered Aging (formerly Ombudsman Services of Contra Costa & Solano), Opportunity Junction (OJ), Mt. Diablo Adult Education (MDAE) and NorCal Care Centers to implement the first phase of a three-year Healthcare Careers Pathway Initiative (HCPI) aimed at creating a regional response to address the health care staffing shortage, while also developing and supporting new career opportunities for low-income Contra Costa residents.

During that phase, which took place from November 2018 – December 2019, the participants launched an eleven-week, certified nursing assistant (CNA) training program at MDAE’s Career & Technical Education Center in Concord to give students the skills they need for certification and provide them with extensive wrap-around social support services and ongoing support for life and career advancement. With financial and clinical training support from area skilled nursing facilities – as well as meals and groceries supplied by the Food Bank and Loaves and Fishes – all 16 graduates from the initial class passed their certification exams and, within months, 15 were employed. In addition, HCPI staff received eight hours of professional development training and the city of Concord proclaimed a Health Careers Pathway Day.

From January 2020 to December 2020, the CHF granted the participants and additional $224,135 – the organizations themselves contributed an additional $159,935 – to implement the second phase of the initiative. Over that time, the participants graduated a second cohort of 15 students. They also enhanced the existing CNA program with curriculum additions, paid internships with industry partners and a professional development curriculum for HCPI and long-term care staff from participating facilities. Moreover, they worked with outside partners to develop additional classes and provide continuing education units to long-term care professionals and in-home supportive services workers. At the same time they developed and codified the HCPI governance and leadership structure, crafted a strategy to address systemic barriers in the current licensing and regulatory framework for CNAs, embarked on a formal evaluation process and developed a path to sustainability for when CHF support concludes.

For 2021, the CHF granted the partners $234,976 to support implementation of the initiative’s third phase during which the partners:

  • Worked with two cohorts of 15 CNA students each at MDAE
  • Launched CNA training at OJ for one cohort of 15 students
  • Continued to advocate for legislative changes at the State level to foster opportunities for innovation in the CNA curriculum.

In their Phase IV implementation in 2022, with the CHF providing $140,000 in funding, the partners:

  • Hired a Contra Costa regional director
  • Graduated 10 cohorts: 137 graduates, 127 certified, and 118 placed 
  • Enrolled 26 graduates in the Career Advancement Project pilot

In addition, the HCPI training model was recognized nationally by the American Society on Aging, the SCAN Foundation as an Innovation Award recipient (runner-up) and the House Ways and Means Committee. It was also included the California’s Master Plan for Aging.

For their Phase V implementation – for which the CHF has awarded $100,000, the partners’ expected activities and outcomes include:

  • Maintaining agreements with at least five clinical sites
  • Securing biannual re-approval from the California Department of Public Health for both the MDAE and OJ sites
  • Conducting six CNA cohorts: three at OJ, three at MDAE
  • Training a total of 90 students
  • Supporting 25 alumni in OJ’s Career Advancement Project
  • Supporting a new “Community of Practice Organizations,” which will support organizations replicating the model by sharing information, recommendations, and resources

In addition, OJ has secured funding to build out a classroom and launch a Medical Assistant training program at their Antioch facility. MDAE offers a very successful program in Concord and will aid in curriculum development and serve as a thought partner.

Finally, the partners indicate considerable progress in securing ongoing support for the initiative from a variety of foundations and government-sponsored programs.