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Joint Commission on Health Care Discusses Workforce Development, Local Health Departments

At its November 13 meeting, the Joint Commission on Health Care discussed the state’s health care workforce development programs and received an update on the workgroup convened by the Virginia Department of Health, at the Commission’s request, to prioritize recommendations from the Commission’s 2022 study of local health departments.

Health care workforce programs:  Reviewing and evaluating health care workforce development programs are ongoing aspects of the Commission’s work; goals for this year included developing an inventory of programs and updating Commission members on related efforts undertaken by other entities.  Commission staff cataloged 64 health-specific workforce programs in Virginia, and 24 general workforce programs that encompass health care; 42 percent of these programs receive state funding.  Staff noted that evidence of effectiveness for these programs is limited, explaining that conducting evaluations of programs can be challenging, given limitations on data availability and lack of funding available for such analyses.  Staff pointed to common themes in several recent studies of health care workforce needs in Virginia, including recommendations for a multi-faceted approach toward recruitment and retention (which would include pay increases, reduction in regulatory burdens, and support for employee well-being), and increased monitoring and evaluation of program outcomes.  The Virginia Health Workforce Development Authority recently concluded a health care workforce study that was directed by the General Assembly; key findings included the need to decrease major barriers to recruitment and retention (including fatigue, distress, and disengagement); increase recruitment (such as by increasing slots in training programs and shortening licensure processes); and increase wages.  James L. Jenkins, Jr., Special Advisor for the Healthcare Workforce in the Governor’s office, reported on the Administration’s efforts to address workforce shortages, particularly in nursing and behavioral health, and highlighted recent additional investments in loan repayment and training programs, as well as efforts to reduce regulatory barriers.  Slides from these presentations may be found at this link.

Local health department structure and financing update:  Dr. Elaine Perry, Director of the Richmond and Henrico Health Districts and chair of the workgroup convened by the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) at the request of the Commission, provided an update on workgroup discussions.  VACo is participating in this workgroup, which was requested to prioritize the policy options included in the Commission’s 2022 study of local health departments’ structure and financing.  An internal workgroup at VDH staff has proposed prioritizing (1) a requirement for all health districts to participate in the Community Health Assessment and Community Health Improvement Plan process (which VDH is working to standardize); (2) development of a state performance management process for each local health department; and (3) comparison of cooperative budget funding per capita with identified needs of local departments in order to make adjustments as additional funding is available.  Other topics of discussion in the workgroup included facilitating access to clinical care; aligning staffing with public health needs; and determining the future role of local health departments.  Dr. Perry updated Commission members on the results of a survey conducted by VACo, which reflected counties’ interest in more regular communication with local health departments, as well as strong support for stabilizing staffing in local departments, particularly in roles that are connected to local economic development.  The presentation may be found at this link.

Commission members reviewed draft study resolutions for two studies planned for 2024; the first proposes to examine models to extend health care access to vulnerable populations, such as through community paramedicine, home visiting, and community health workers, and the second would require staff to evaluate the performance of health care workforce programs.  The Commission is scheduled to hold its final meeting of the year on December 6, at which time it will vote on policy options from its 2023 studies on team-based care and the prevention and treatment of obesity and eating disorders, as well as voting on studies for 2024.

VACo Contact:  Katie Boyle

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