On Friday, July 10, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) issued a Request For Proposals to kick off an initiative that’s meant to send about 250 community health workers to “historically underserved” parts of the state now facing high COVID-19 caseloads.

The goal is to get teams of trained frontline public health professionals to areas of North Carolina that have been hit hard by COVID-19 but don’t currently have the services and support they need.

NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen commented on the effort in a press release Friday.

“This new team of Community Health Workers is a critical workforce focused on assisting people struggling with the complex impacts of this pandemic,” said the state official who’s becoming one of the most recognizable North Carolinians thanks to the pandemic and her near daily televised briefings.

Under the program, the health workers will, among other things, be responsible for connecting state residents to medical and social support resources such as testing, primary care, case management, nutrition assistance and mental health services. NCDHHS plans to contract with one or more state-based organizations to recruit, train and manage the workers who’ll be deployed to areas with high COVID-19-related needs.

According to the July 10 press release, “Community Health Workers will work in coordination with local health departments and contact tracers to identify and connect with individuals who need support. They will use tablets that allow them to leverage NCCARE360, the nation’s first statewide technology platform uniting traditional health care settings and organizations that address non-medical drivers of health, such as food, housing, transportation, employment and interpersonal safety. They will also assist individuals who need access to a location to isolate or a connection to other financial resources.”

NCDHHS Deputy Secretary E. Benjamin Money, Jr. said this tactic should help slow the transmission of the disease.

“People dealing with a COVID-19 infection need a complex range of medical and social support, especially if they live in a historically underserved community,” he said in the release. “By deploying teams of Community Health Workers to the places we know North Carolinians need help, we can address unmet needs while helping to slow the spread of this virus.”

The initiative will run through December with the possibility of renewal.