An exciting trend in complex care is how its workforce has evolved to better address patient needs. Today, organizations increasingly recognize the value of employing individuals who share experiences with the patients they serve, and who can provide a more personal approach to engagement and care coordination. Those experiencing substance use disorder, homelessness, and/or mental illness, for example, may feel stigmatized and alone, and often face numerous obstacles to accessing health care. However, with support from an individual who has “been there,” many patients can receive more consistent, coordinated care, and achieve improved health outcomes.

The New Faces of the Complex Care Workforce series, developed by the Center for Health Care Strategies, features individuals working at complex care programs across the nation. These profiles explore the role of these “non-traditional health workers,” the types of patient populations they have successfully engaged, and the challenges of sustaining these types of programs. Their titles vary — community health worker, care navigator, community paramedic, peer specialist — but the core benefit they provide to patients is the same: a knowledgeable care provider, often with lived experience, and an advocate for better health.

Helping Others Face the Stigma of Mental Illness with Understanding and Strength – C.J. Albani, a peer specialist at CirCare in Syracuse, NY, provides support, guidance, and encouragement for those with behavioral health conditions.

Providing a Peer “Home Base” for People with Addictions Who Are HomelessAshley Turner, a substance use disorder community health worker for Los Angeles County, uses her experience with homelessness to connect with patients.

Connecting to Care Through Substance Use Disorder Peer SupportAubree Rosenberg, a community outreach recovery specialist, guides patients recovering from substance use disorder through a program at Community Care Behavioral Health in Pittsburgh.

Taking Complex Care on the Road Using Community Paramedics Brian Randall, a ThedaCare community paramedic, cares for patients with complex medical, behavioral, and social health needs in their homes in northeastern Wisconsin.

Restoring Health and Humanity to the Recently Incarcerated – Joe Calderon, a community health worker at Transitions Clinic Network in San Francisco, mentors young men recently released from prison, and ensures they have access to the kinds of health care services he lacked for most of his life.

Shared Military Background Improves Connections with Patients in Rural Montana Kyle McClure, a former member of Mountain-Pacific Quality Health’s ReSource Team in Billings, Montana, uses the insights he gained in the U.S. Army to more effectively address the health concerns of veterans and other patients he serves.

Connecting Patients to Community and Care in Small-Town South Carolina – Tracie Mason, a lifelong resident of Spartanburg, South Carolina and care navigator, uses her familiarity with the community to connect patients to local resources and primary care at AccessHealth Spartanburg.

Related Webinar Series: Workforce Innovations in Complex Care

This three-part webinar series, made possible by Kaiser Permanente Community Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, explores innovative strategies across the health care workforce to better serve patients with complex health and social needs: