POLACCA, Ariz. — The Community Health Representative program, also known as CHR, has been serving American communities for 50 years and the Hopi/Tewa communities since the 1970s.
Joyce Hamilton, program director for the CHR program on Hopi, said the program is doing great at serving the community and keeps getting better at meeting medical needs of clients.
Hamilton worked at the Hopi Wellness Center for 20 years before switching to the Hopi CHR program 18 months ago.
“I was ready for a change, but I’m still working with health prevention and health promotion,” she said. “I enjoy it and love it here because I enjoy the work that CHR does.”
Hamilton said CHR is a community oriented program.
“We work closely with clients in the community,” she said.
CHRs are trained as either Certified Nurses Assistants or medical assistants. During their first year as CHRs, they must pass medical modules to show their knowledge. Public health nurses also work with CHRs to help them with their training.
“We help with any type of health care needs such as pregnancy and teenage pregnancy. We help everyone from young children to the older population. The myth that we help only seniors is not true,” she said. “We do health screenings and we advocate for our clients.”
The health screenings can help clients with blood pressure and blood sugar readings. It can also check on the client’s medications.
“We want to make sure the quality of life for our clients is good,” she said.
Those with medical needs can telephone the CHR program directly, but CHR also gets referrals from the Hopi Health Care Center.
CHRs also provide home visits, in which they make sure there is no potential for older people to fall.
The CHR program is involved in community activities and helps schools with their immunization programs. The CHRs also work with social services, public health nurses and dentists to serve clients.
CHRs can also help with housing problems that impact medical problems. For example, if the house has a hole in it and the wind is blowing in, they can talk to HUD about fixing the problem. They also make sure HUD knows when a house needs to be wheelchair accessible. Or if a wheel chair is missing its brakes, they can let the medical center know about that problem.
The CHR program is located at Hopi Health Care Center in Polacca, but it is a separate program funded by the Hopi Tribe. It is funded by Indian Health Services, but the funds are funneled through the Hopi Tribe and then dispersed to the CHR program.
Hamilton said in the past year U.S. President Donald Trump proposed eliminating the funds for the CHR programs, but that the federal government restored the funding.
“A lot of tribes, including Arizona tribes and Hopi, advocated to showcase why this program is important to the community,” she said.
The Hopi Tribe has been losing funding, mostly because of the pending closure of the Navajo Generating Station, but Hamilton said that should not impact the CHR program since they do not rely on tribal funds.
On Aug. 2, the CHR program will celebrate its fiftieth year with a gathering at the Hopi Veterans Center from 6-8:30 p.m. This event, which will honor past and present CHRs, is open to the public. National CHR Director Georgiana Old Elk, based out of Rockville, Maryland, will be attending the gathering. Hamilton said this is a chance for the clients and their families to say thank you to the CHRs.
On Aug. 12, the CHRs will have a water station at the cancer prevention run that will go from Sunlight Mission in the Mishongnovi area to the Hopi Cultural Center.
Hamilton said the best part of CHR is that it is community driven.
“We’re not waiting for people to come to us. We come to them,” she said.
Hamilton said there are no restrictions on their program as they can serve everyone on the Hopi Reservation, including non-Native Americans.
Hamilton said they continually look to improve their partnership with Hopi Health Care Center.
“We can improve by having more access to client data. We don’t see everything that the doctors see,” she said. “IHS and CHR are all here to serve. We want IHS to see us as a resource. We want to strengthen our partnership with Hopi Health Care Center. It is happening, but with baby steps.”
Hamilton said one misconception is that CHR provides medical transportation. They do not do that. That is the job of Hopi Medical Transportation Program, which is also housed at Hopi Health Care Center.
There are seven Community Health Representative locations in the Hopi program with each serving a different area.
1-Elyse Monroe covers Kykotsmovi and Oraibi;
2-Felicia Mata covers Hotevilla and Bacavi;
3-Rose Namoki covers Upper and Lower Moenkopi:
4-Cindi Polingyumptewa covers Shungopavi;
5-Lori Monongye-Russell covers Polacca;
6-Ruth Ami covers Sipaulovi and Mishongnovi;
7-Kanesha Quanimptewa covers Keams Canyon and Spider Mound.
More information or anyone who wants to use the CHR program can telephone their central office at 737-6342. The CHR office is open from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.