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Northwell graduates first class of Suffolk community health workers

Donna Stovall, one of five Suffolk graduates of

Donna Stovall, one of five Suffolk graduates of Northwell's community health liaison program, speaks during the graduation ceremony in Hauppauge Wednesday. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Northwell Health on Wednesday graduated its first group of Suffolk County-based community health workers. 

The five graduates of the health system's "From the Community, For the Community" program will become Northwell liaisons with patients in medically underserved areas. Patients in those areas on average experience lower life expectancy and other health disparities, Northwell said.

The community health workers, who went through a seven-week training program, will move into positions with the healthcare giant or at a community service organization that partners with Northwell. The workers will connect with patients before and after appointments to make sure they have access to medicine, transportation to a doctor's office and general healthcare support. 

The Suffolk graduates join 25 people in New York City and Long Island who have gone through the training program, Northwell said.

The New Hyde Park-based health system said the program is part of its focus on social determinants of health, including homelessness, lack of access to transportation or an inability to afford nutritious food. The community health workers connect patients to resources that can help with those and other obstacles, Northwell said.

The training included classroom-based coursework and on-site training at either a Northwell facility or at a community-based group. Northwell said it recruits potential candidates for the program who are either underemployed or unemployed, and added it does so to "provide its trainees a path forward toward financial security, one of the strongest predictors of overall health."

One of those graduates, Donna Stovall, 53, of Coram, has joined New Horizon Counseling Center in Copiague, which works with mentally ill patients.

"I'll make sure patients are following up with their doctors' appointments, and are able to get to their appointments," Stovall said. "I'm there to support them, and answer any questions they have about their care."

Other Suffolk County graduates are joining area pediatric offices that are affiliated with Northwell, a youth outreach program and Northwell Health's Health Home, a Medicaid care-coordinated program that provides access to medical, mental health, substance abuse and social services.

"This opportunity ties in with what I've done for years, which is community outreach," said Ducamel Denis, 32, of Wyandanch, who will work at Dr. Mireille M. Constant's pediatric office in East Islip. 

A $750,000 grant from JPMorgan Chase helps support the program, Northwell said.

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