Bennet Discusses Need for a National Health Force with Colorado Health, Education, Business Leaders

Listen to Bennet’s Panel Discussion HERE

Denver – Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet and a panel of health, education, and business leaders discussed the need for a national Health Force to put Coloradans back to work and help Colorado respond to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Last month, Bennet introduced legislation to create a Health Force with U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) to create jobs for thousands of recently unemployed Americans and directly support the nation’s community health efforts to recover from the current crisis. Liane Jollon, President of CALPHO / San Juan Basin Public Health Director; Bryan Leach, CEO and Founder of Ibotta; Monique Lovato, CEO of Mi Casa Resource Center; and Dr. Carrie Besnette Hauser, President and CEO of Colorado Mountain College joined Bennet for the panel discussion. 

“What we have discovered during the COVID crisis is that we’ve had a lack of investment in our country for the last 50 years – we’ve had a lack of investment in health care, we’ve had a lack of investment in education, we’ve had a lack of investment in our physical infrastructure,” said Bennet during the discussion with health, education, and business leaders. “The critical thing for us to do – and what this Health Force is meant to do – is allow us to open the country and our economy with the confidence that we’re not going to have to close it again.”

“It is a fundamental obligation of government to promote and protect individual and community health,” said Liane Jollon, President of CALPHO and the San Juan Basin Public Health Director. “On the ground in local communities, local public health is the foundation of detecting and responding to infectious disease, including COVID-19. Of course San Juan Basin Public Health, or any local public health, does not succeed in this work without the expertise and support of an entire federal, state, and local governmental public health system working together.” 

“Now, our focus is on programs like the senator is introducing to help our businesses get back to work, and not just for the sake of our own bottom lines and our own productivity, but also for the local businesses our employees support by working in an office environment,” said Bryan Leach, CEO and Founder of Ibotta. “But without testing, and without tracing, all 500 of our employees will definitively remain working outside of the office until there is a when I heard about this program, we've been looking for something that was cost effective which we could opt in to and begin to help bring the economy back.”

“In this moment we've realized that some of the descriptions of public health workers align really well with the skills of our participants and with the training that we provide, pretty efficiently, to help people to find and keep a better job with better wages and benefits,” said Monique Lovato, CEO of Mi Casa Resource Center. “We believe that we have an opportunity – right now – to contribute to and help create this health work force that serves both our participant community in terms of helping them to be safer and be healthy – and to create work opportunities for those who have been laid off.” 

“We've got roughly 4 million students graduating from some level of college in 2020...and now, they are facing an unemployment rate greater than the Great Depression. To many of them, their job offers have disappeared, internships have been pulled back, entry level positions have been the first to be cut,” said Dr. Carrie Besnette Hauser, President and CEO of Colorado Mountain College. “It also presents probably the most amazing opportunity – the Health Force...and what an amazing, talented group of people to put as boots on the ground. They are college graduates and they are ready to work.” 

The Health Force is inspired by the Depression-era Works Progress Administration and Civilian Conservation Corps, which similarly tapped the unemployed to help the nation recover from a sharp economic downturn. The Health Force would create a federally-supported and locally-managed program to train and deploy essential public and community health frontline workers, who could conduct testing, contact tracing, or eventual vaccine administration. These positions would complement America’s highly trained and skilled medical professionals already fighting on the front lines. The workforce would be trained by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and managed by state and local public health agencies across the country.  

The Health Force would be responsible for:

  • Supporting and conducting contact tracing;
  • Supporting administration of COVID-19 tests, including antibody tests;
  • Sharing COVID-19 public health messages with community members, including debunking myths and misperceptions;
  • Providing data entry in support of epidemiological surveillance and to meet broader health information system requirements;
  • Providing support for community-based and home-based services, including food and medical supply delivery to elderly and immunocompromised individuals;
  • Supporting palliative and hospice care;
  • Providing other public health-related services, as needed.  

A recording of the panel discussion is available HERE.