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Support group targets community health workers taxed by pandemic

By Jamie Lampros - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Apr 27, 2022

BEN DORGER, Standard-Examiner file photo

Weber State University Dumke College of Health Professions faculty donate medical supplies on Tuesday, March 31, 2020, to Midtown Community Health Center to help ease pressure seen by the COVID-19 pandemic.

SALT LAKE CITY – Community health workers throughout Utah have spent two exhaustive years caring for COVID-19 patients. Now, it’s their turn to receive some hope and comfort.

Caring Connections, the not-for-profit bereavement care program at the University of Utah’s College of Nursing, is offering peer support group sessions for anyone in the field needing some time to relax and talk to one another about their experiences during the pandemic.

“The community health workers are an amazing resource for Utahns, particularly those in underrepresented communities of color,” said Katherine Supiano, director of Caring Connections. “They have themselves been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. It has been gratifying to encourage their good work.”

Supiano said as case numbers have fallen, community health workers have started going back to their traditional line of work, and now is an opportune time to give them the chance to look back and reflect.

“During the first hour of the session, we’ll be taking the time to look back and remember all of the losses we’ve experienced, and for many community health workers, that meant the loss of one of their own family members,” she said. “It will be people coming to give support as much as coming to get support. These folks deeply care about their communities, but through this very challenging work, they’ve really come to depend on each other and the value of that mutual support.”

Just as important as discussions, Supiano said one main goal is to give health workers a restorative time.

“The days and times will vary,” she said. “We’ll be organizing them geographically throughout the state, so we’ll be drawing in clusters of community health workers to give them this two-hour retreat. These retreats are a time to relax and reflect, but they can also be very emotional. It’s an opportunity to look back and also look forward.”

Sessions are offered monthly. Caring Connections also works in collaboration with Latino Behavioral Health to provide the program in both Spanish and English.

Those interested can call 801-585-9522.

In addition, Supiano said COVID-19 grief and recovery support groups are also being offered to the public. Those who have lost family or friends to the virus and need help dealing with grief or ongoing emotional struggles related to their illness can call 801-585-9522.

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