Hope, advocacy, and support are the benefits of having a Community Health Worker in a correctional facility, according to CHW Monalynn Decker, who was recently named the Kansas CHW of the Year.
She received the award during the Kansas Community Health Worker Coalition Symposium. The CHW of the Year nominee must exemplify the Kansas CHW Core Competencies, including interpersonal warmth, trustworthiness, open-mindedness, objectivity, sensitivity, and competency, to name a few.
Monalynn is one of the first CHWs to work within a correctional facility. Through CHC/SEK’s Correctional Health, she provides transportation to court or other appointments, sends referrals to community resources, helps people search for employment, identifies affordable housing options, and more.
“It feels very rewarding to advocate for such an underrepresented population,” she says.
She builds relationships with clients while incarcerated to ensure that they are comfortable continuing to work with her post-release.
Every day is different, Monalynn says.
“It is busy from the moment I arrive to the moment I leave,” she says. “There is a lot to do. I work at top speed and in many different directions to meet a wide variety of client needs. I typically start within the jail meeting clients before heading out into the community where I follow up with individuals who have been released.”
Although Monalynn feels honored to receive the KS CHW of the Year award, she hopes it can bring to light the need for CHWs within correctional facilities.
“I have seen people make such impressive growth while working with me,” she says. “Those individuals reentering the community and working hard to better their quality of life deserve recognition as well. Our community is strengthened by their hard work!”