LCHD lands $550K grant for workforce development


LEE COUNTY - In a rare public press conference, the Lee County Health Department announced Thursday that a federal grant totaling more than half a million dollars had been secured for workforce development.
A team consisting of Breanna Kramer-Riesberg, LCHD Community Outreach & Development Project Coordinator, and Emily Biddenstadt, along with other partners from Blessing Health System, Southeast Iowa Regional Medical Center, and Southeastern Community College, worked together for about three months to get the grant application put together under the direction of LCHD Administrator Michele Ross.
Ross, Kramer-Riesberg, and Biddenstadt were also genuinely surprised when the news came in that the LCHD had received the grant money.
Kramer-Riesberg said part of the funds will be used initially to set up the program, and then funds will be allocated to allow students to take coursework related to rural health care to increase the workforce for the first three years of the program.
The grant required a 3-year program and she said it's the hope of the partners involved that the program can then fund itself with increased participation after the grant period runs out.
"A large amount of this goes toward providing the course for free for these three years. The tuition and fees part will be completely covered," Kramer-Riesberg said.
She said initially the first group of students will be smaller, but as the program expands, more and more students can be added.
LCHD received notice from the Department of Health and Human Services they have received the $547,302 HRSA (Health Resources & Services Administration) federal grant. 
The intent with the Rural Public Health Workforce Training Network Program grant will be for LCHD to partner with SCC, Blessing Health Keokuk, and Southeast Iowa Regional Medical Center to develop a Southeast Iowa Public Health Academic Training Program. 
The program will focus on creating cross-training opportunities for new and existing healthcare personnel to learn principles of community health work, community resources, and public health concepts.  This program will be able to assist health care staff in referring to appropriate resources to better patients' health.
“Lee County Health Department for many years has pursued local and state grant awards to implement programs and services based on the population health needs of the county. This is a very exciting moment for LCHD since this is the agency’s very first HRSA federal grant award,” said Ross.  “I’m very proud that Emily and Breanna, along with our committed partners, had a vision, and put that vision to application resulting in this highly competitive grant award.  This innovative rural workforce training project will bring public health as a career choice to the forefront of many young adults pursuing careers in health services.”    
The project partners are also looking forward to the opportunity.
“This grant project will support SCC’s ongoing skills and workforce development in the healthcare sector, and improve economic vitality, and ultimately the health and wellness of our entire region,” adds Kristi Schroeder, SCC Dean of Health Professions.
“We have a longstanding history of working with Lee County Health Department, and are excited to collaborate with them on new opportunities to further meet the needs of the communities that we serve,” said Kathy Hull, Chief of Small Rural Hospitals, Blessing Health System.
SEIRMC's Vanessa Watson said the program will help create a workforce that is knowledgeable of community resource navigation and referrals.
“We are pleased to work with LCHD and other collaborators on this grant to expand opportunities for the regions’ workforce. Competencies in resource navigation and public health are essential in the current landscape of value-based care and community health needs improvement strategies," she said.
Biddenstadt, LCHD's Community Health Program Director, said the group hopes to have the program's first participants in the spring semester.
“We hope to have the first course participants start in January 2023. As we move through each course, content will be adjusted and we will be able to share updates, especially of community resources with past participants.” 
Program students will have an opportunity to take part in hands-on-trainings with LCHD at rotating clinics in rural areas of Lee County.  Students will be able to work with residents to provide support and complete referrals to community resources to improve health outcomes.  There will also be opportunities for current healthcare workers to be part of the program through a series of “Lunch and Learn” presentations. 
As the program progresses, clinics and presentations will be announced through the media and on the LCHD website ( and social media.

Lee County Health Department, grant, HRSA, rural healthcare, workforce, news, announcement, program, SCC, Blessing Health, Southeast Iowa Regional Medical Center, Pen City Current, Michele Ross, Breanna Kramer-Riesberg, Emily Biddenstadt,


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