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NKU’s Institute for Health Innovation Receives Grant to Support a New Community Health Worker Program

Health Innovation Center

Oct. 11, 2022 - Northern Kentucky University announces it has received a grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration to increase the number of health workers in rural and underserved areas in northern Kentucky. 

“Seven out of the eight counties in northern Kentucky contain underserved areas, and their health-related metrics are substantially below national averages,” says Valerie Hardcastle, the executive director of NKU’s Institute for Health Innovation and the principal investigator on the grant. “Training and hiring health support workers who can work as members in multidisciplinary health care teams are a cost-effective and efficient healthcare solution for under-resourced regions.” 

The $2.9 million three-year grant will support NKU’s innovative efforts in expanding its Human Services and Addiction program, aiming to reduce health disparities in the underserved communities. Among the positions supported by the grant are a full-time project director, a coordinator for a telehealth/telemedicine clinical site for training new health professionals, a non-tenure-track renewable (NTTR) faculty member, and summer pay for five faculty members to work on the project.

But most importantly, the grant will help reduce financial barriers for trainees through scholarship and stipend support, as well as provide scholarships for required continuing education credits at NKU for regional behavioral healthcare workers. 

“Increasing the number of community health workers in our region will mean that underserved individuals or families will be able to get more easily connected to available healthcare resources, as well as to get help in navigating our very complex health-care system. Moreover, this program will help push the idea that improving population health also includes decreasing housing instability, food insecurity, incarceration, and unemployment,” says Hardcastle. 

Growing the Human Services and Addiction program is the latest initiative taken by NKU to expand access to behavioral health resources in the rural and underserved communities of northern Kentucky. In 2021, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced it was awarding NKU a grant to increase the telehealth and telemedicine resources in five rural counties of northern Kentucky, in partnership with St. Elizabeth Healthcare, NorthKey Community Care, Three Rivers District Health Department, and the county school systems to offer medical and behavioral healthcare in those counties. 

For more information on the NKU Institute of Health Innovation, visit its website. 

About NKU: Founded in 1968, NKU is an entrepreneurial state university of over 16,000 students served by more than 2,000 faculty and staff on a thriving suburban campus nestled between Highland Heights, Kentucky and bustling downtown Cincinnati. We are a regionally engaged university committed to empowering our students to have fulfilling careers and meaningful lives. While we are one of the fastest-growing universities in Kentucky, our professors still know our students' names. For more information, visit