Xue Yang is a part of the growing Juniper community health workers program that positions CHWs in community and healthcare settings to help connect people with Juniper classes and other social services. This is the second of a series of articles about Juniper CHWs.
Xue Yang has connected hundreds of people with resources and support. From managing chronic pain to making social connections through Juniper classes, people are feeling better and less isolated because Xue takes the time to listen and open doors to resources and support.
As a community health worker for Juniper, Xue has an office at the pain clinic in the HealthPartners Neuroscience Center in St. Paul. He meets with patients after medical appointments to understand their social health needs and then connects them to community resources to address those needs. This often includes a referral to a Juniper class where the individual can find strategies for pain management, along with support from others facing the same challenges.
According to Juniper network director at Trellis, Sarah Blonigan, “We saw an opportunity to provide direct services in an innovative way using CHWs. The CHWs connect people to resources with a warm hand-off, rather than just phone support.”
Xue is good at providing information and then assisting people with filling out paperwork that will help meet their medical and social needs. He has a degree in community health from the University of Wisconsin-Lacrosse. His previous experience with guiding people through the insurance claims process is helpful, as is his personal experience.
Working with a focus on equity
“I’m a first-generation Hmong American. My parents were refugees of the Vietnam War who escaped to America to feel safe. I can’t imagine what it was like for my parents to leave their home country and survive on their own in a new world, but they did it because they wanted their kids to have a future. We were a low-income family and that contributed to my passion for working with diverse communities to make sure they get equitable health care and social services. Trellis and HealthPartners are helping me do that.”
People reach out to Xue because they’ve heard about Juniper classes. He makes calls to people in Hmong, Vietnamese and Laotian communities who could benefit from the classes. He talks with them to make sure they have the information they need to find a program that meets their needs. Xue says his goal is to ensure that people can stay independent at home and in the community and live a healthier and happier life. “Once I engage someone, they just love being heard and knowing someone is listening, especially older adults who are experiencing social isolation. They feel they don’t have a voice. We all want opportunities to laugh, be happy and be the best we can be within our home and community. My job is to be the voice of people who don’t have a voice. I set the stage and then pass the microphone to them.”
According to Sarah, “Xue Joined Trellis as a wellness engagement specialist, and it became clear in the first few months that he is a community health worker at heart. He has the gift of emotional intelligence and is passionate about advocating for people. He listens and he sincerely cares, and people sense that. Individuals who don’t typically share their thoughts and feelings do so openly with Xue. A good community health worker doesn’t direct solutions, they guide people towards finding the right solution for themselves. Xue does that.”
Xue’s work is making a difference
Xue set the stage for a person who was feeling isolated in their home in rural Minnesota. “This person lives by themselves with multiple chronic conditions, no family support, no transportation and a deep fear of COVID-19,” says Xue. “They were hesitant when I first called, but I listened and understood their struggles. I listened with empathy and without judgment and was able to connect them with mental health services, something they had unsuccessfully tried to do on their own.” Xue now calls this person weekly to check-in. There are tears at times and there is laughter. “I like that my calls make a difference, and I can help the people I talk with.”
In another case, Xue reached out to a patient who was experiencing pain and was referred to Juniper by a healthcare provider. Xue found that in addition to pain, the person was feeling fatigued and isolated. The individual lived with her daughter, who was a huge support, but she didn’t want to continue to burden her daughter with her pain. Xue says, “It was a very emotional call. Chronic pain had really impacted this person’s life. I registered her in Juniper’s Living Well with Chronic Pain class, giving her hope for getting back to the normal life she used to enjoy.”
Xue says CHWs bridge gaps between health care and social service systems so that people don’t fall through the cracks. “We provide support and encouragement for them to be their own advocates.”