YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — A new grant will allow the Youngstown City Health District to establish a new training program for community health workers.

The Youngstown City Health District recently received $450,000 to go toward placing a community health worker on each side of town.

It has been eight years since the city has had the resources to host the training necessary to host so many community health workers.

Youngstown City Health District Commissioner Erin Bishop says the classes are very expensive. Without the new grant, this part of the Youngstown Health Improvement Zone plan wouldn’t be possible.

“It was hard, like I said, I wasn’t able to hire anyone because they weren’t community health workers because we haven’t had the training here,” Bishop said.

The first two-month pieces of training will take place in January of next year. The community health workers will be advocates for each side of Youngstown’s community action teams.

“They’re going to ask people in their community to be a part of that. They’re going to ask business owners, they’re going to ask someone that’s on a community organization or a church,” Bishop said. “They’re going to want them to be a part of it so they get their voices heard.”

The focus groups will take a closer look at each side of town’s specific health needs.

“We really are focusing on the social determinants of health and what people see the biggest need is. Is it housing? Is it education? Is it transportation?” Bishop said.

Now, people can directly call their community health worker to make sure their health concerns are heard.

“It was always something I wanted to do if we had a grant like this, to do on all four sides of town — as opposed to taking on neighborhood and focusing on that,” Bishop said.

The Youngstown Health Improvement Zone plan will focus on all aspects of health.

“We’re thinking of the whole, holistic person. The spiritual, the emotional, the environmental health, the physical health, nutrition, mental health,” Bishop said.

Right now, the health district is conducting surveys to see what is important to each neighborhood and with whom it can work to bring about healthy changes.

The community health workers will finish their training in February 2023. Following that, they will go door-to-door to connect with the community and continue their efforts to improve Youngstown.