Contract to manage Garfield County’s promotoras public health efforts for Spanish speakers being scrutinized by commissioners
UPDATE: This discussion was postponed from the Monday Board of County Commissioners meeting until the next regularly scheduled BOCC meeting on Monday, Nov. 9.
A contract to carry out a Garfield County Public Health project aimed at delivering information around coronavirus disease spread and precautions to area Spanish speakers is under the political microscope.
Last week, county commissioners were asked to approve a sole-source contract for the nonprofit Trailhead Institute to administer the county’s Promotoras Project.
The project would use $40,000 of a $50,000 state pass-through planning grant to help the county move toward the least-restrictive Protect Our Neighbors level regarding business openings and gathering sizes.
However, the item was tabled to a special Board of County Commissioners meeting Monday (and further postponed until Nov. 9) after questions were raised about political motives and a provision that would allow for undocumented individuals to be paid for their field work.
“I want to know who the players are in Trailhead Institute, and I want to make sure there’s not a political agenda involved,” Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said in asking that the item be pulled from the board’s Oct. 19 consent agenda.
Jankovsky also questioned a provision whereby Public Health could use undocumented individuals to work directly with the Hispanic community to disseminate information, and to be paid for that work using the grant dollars.
Garfield County Public Health Director Yvonne Long explained that Trailhead is not a political organization, but works closely with the state and county public health agencies to administer certain initiatives.
Long did acknowledge when Jankovsky pointed it out that some of the money would go to pay people who may not be documented.
“A lot of the work to develop this program has already been done, but no one is in the field doing the work yet until we knew we could pay them,” she said.
It’s a model that has worked in other communities, Long said, because there’s a better level of trust when someone from the community is sharing information about how to prevent disease spread and why it’s important to follow certain protocols.
That’s especially important in areas with large Hispanic communities. In Garfield County, where about 30% of the population is Hispanic/Latino, about 67% of the COVID-19 cases confirmed to date are within that particular demographic.
Long said there is a lot of misinformation and confusion about the coronavirus, especially in the Hispanic community.
“That’s why we use people who are bilingual and bicultural,” she said.
The Promotoras Program is aimed at getting information about the disease, how to prevent it, and how to keep it from spreading in the community, to people in a more direct way.
Training materials have been developed, and the county has lined up six promotoras to disseminate the information in Spanish in each of the county’s six towns and cities, Mason Hohstadt, public health specialist with the county, said.
“This was developed by people in our county who are from the Spanish-speaking community,” he said. “When these individuals go out, they are in the community where they came from.”
Hohstadt and others from the Public Health Department are slated to further explain the program, after a weekly COVID-19 update at Monday’s special, off-week meeting.
“They (Trailhead) are offering us the opportunity to pay people who have difficulties being paid within normal pay structures,” Hohstadt said.
One speaker at last week’s meeting when the subject came up was Western Garfield County Chamber of Commerce Director Tanya Doose. She said the chamber could be considered as an option to Trailhead
“I would encourage you to take a step back on this,” Doose advised the commissioners, adding she believes there are documented immigrants within the community who would be willing to do the work.
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