Otero Junior College’s vision is to provide superior educational opportunities and be a valued partner with the communities we serve.

Otero Junior College’s vision is to provide superior educational opportunities and be a valued partner with the communities we serve. The Health Navigator program is a specific example of how it does just that.  OJC boasts the state’s first associate degree in health navigation and a potential career pathway that extends from community health worker to health navigator to a master’s degree in public health.

A health navigator is someone who guides individuals and families through the complex health care system to take advantage of services appropriate and available to them, largely through the Affordable Care Act.  Their duties include linking patients with services, providing information and resources, helping providers interact with patients, and offering health education and promoting healthy behaviors.

Health navigators work in hospitals, community health centers, private practices and other agencies, assisting individuals across the continuum of care, from prevention to end of life.  The demand for trained health navigators is growling because they have been shown to increase the quality and reduce the cost of care for patients in rural and other underserved areas.

OJC continues to build this program with the support of a Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) Prevention Services Division (PSD) grant. The program has been modified to be delivered in two formats: a classroom face-to-face version and distance learning option which allows students to access the program including faculty support from home, wherever they live.

“Otero County educators are helping transform health care in Colorado by training a growing workforce of patient navigators to help underserved populations in reducing and eliminating barriers to health care access and in negotiating complex health delivery systems,” said Pat Uris, who heads the Patient Navigator Workforce Initiative.  “They’re drawing support from local health plans, interest from students across Colorado and recognition form the state’s community college system for their outstanding program.”

In mid-September, OJC Health Navigator faculty Kaysie Schmidt and Ron Striegel were invited to present at “Unifying Industry, Education and Health/Patient Navigators,” an invitational meeting co-sponsored by the Colorado Community College System and CDPHE. The summit examined the role of community colleges in patient navigator training and the feasibility of a career pathway leading to a bachelor’s degree in public health.

“Making Colorado the healthiest state in the nation means eliminating health disparities,” said Uris. “Health navigators like those trained at Otero Junior College can help us do that.”

For more information on the Health Navigator program at OJC, contact Kaysie Schmidt at 719-384-6854 or Kaysie.Schmidt@ojc.edu

Otero Junior College’s mission is to provide quality higher education that is accessible, transforms lives, expands employment opportunities, enriches our communities, promotes individual and global cultural diversity, and fosters economic development.