TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) - There is a growing need for more peer health coaches in the viewing area. Tippecanoe County is one of more than 50 rural Indiana counties considered medically underserved. That distinction comes from the federal government.
Fountain, Warren, Montgomery, Clinton, Carroll, Cass, Howard, Miami, Fulton, Pulaski, White, and Newton Counties are all also under the medically underserved designation, as of April 2014.
Tom Gilliom, CEO of Valley Oaks Health, said he sees the struggles of being a medically underserved area every day.
"We don't have enough professionals at the higher levels to adequately deal with all the people who need the help," he said.
ASPIN is a non-profit organization providing free, online behavioral health training. Valley Oaks is the Tippecanoe County partner with ASPIN. Paul Conrad is the Director of Training and Workforce Development for ASPIN.
"How can we help address these health disparities in our targeted counties?" he said. "We developed this program to train people as both certified community health workers for the state of Indiana and chronic care professional educators."
These are community members who work with those who have health care needs, providing them with resources, helping them get through doctor's appointments, or helping them manage their illness in their daily lives. Gilliom described them as the people on the ground working with those in need.
"Let's get more hands on with the people that are peers, that people are potentially more willing to listen to compared to doctors," he said. He added that many who have gone through this training before either had family members that they wanted to help, or they had overcome illness personally and wanted to help others navigate the process.
The criteria to go through the training is simple. You only need to be 18 years old, you have to be an Indiana resident, but you only need a high school diploma or GED. Then you can take your training to any community health center or federally qualified health center, like Riggs in Lafayette, and potentially get a job.
"There's a lot of jobs available," said Conrad. "If you are somebody who wants to get into health care either in behavioral health or primary care, this is a great place to get started."
Whether you have a master's degree or only a GED, Conrad encourages all who are interested to try.
"If you are a person who really wants to make a difference in your area, this is the job for you," he said.
Conrad said they do still have openings for the three-week online training. Click here for more information.