Chicagoans can help fight the opioid crisis in their community –encouraged to apply to Malcolm X College’s Community Health Worker program


Free Community Health Worker Program Made Possible through $2.1M Federal Grant

City Colleges of Chicago’s Malcolm X College (MXC) is inviting Chicagoans to become community health workers to help fight the opioid crisis. Using a $2.1 M grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration, the college launched the Opioid-Impacted Family Support Program (OIFSP), which seeks to bring care and relief to neighborhoods that are most affected by opioid use disorder (OUD) in Chicago. Partners in this four-year initiative include: University of Illinois at Chicago – Department of Disability and Human Development (DHD), Gateway Foundation, Inc., and the Public Health Institute of Metropolitan Chicago. Students with an interest in helping people to change their lives are encouraged to sign-up for this program starting this fall semester 2021.
Through the program, students in MXC’s Community Health Worker program are trained to provide care and services to children and families impacted by opioid and substance use disorders. The grant will pay for students’ tuition, fees and book costs, and will provide a stipend up to $7,500 for the two-phase training course. Phase-one is a one-semester certificate program to become a community health worker. It includes five foundational courses with an emphasis on an opioid crisis support curriculum inclusive of an 80-hour field experience and a stipend. This phase can be taken in the fall or spring semester. Phase-two is a year-long paid apprenticeship and mentorship program with a part-time or full-time commitment.

“This grant provides yet another opportunity for MXC to offer our students a career path in public health and provide a valuable resource to families battling opioid and substance abuse,” said David Sanders, President of Malcolm X College. “We join our partners in providing a much-needed population of community health workers to aggressively and compassionately combat this crisis.”

“We are excited and eager to help make this program viable in Chicago particularly in communities that need support and resources and have critical workforce shortage challenges,” said Dr. Tamar Heller, Director of the Institute on Disability and Human Development (IDHD), University of Illinois at Chicago. “IDHD is leading the evaluation component of this work which will be critical to its future sustainability.”
One key program goal is to identify students with a strong desire to pursue a career in public health and/or related healthcare fields who want to see Chicago communities thrive. With a focus on Chicago’s west side, students will work with mentors and clinicians to connect people who are suffering from OUD and their families with essential resources and support to fight the opioid crisis in our city.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, 20 million people a year in the United States suffer from an opioid-use disorder. In the year ending September 2020, there were more than 90,000 overdose related deaths in the U.S., the biggest number ever in history.
“As leaders in the field of addiction medicine, we believe in strong and robust partnerships that help us achieve our mission. We, like all other healthcare providers, are experiencing significant challenges in recruiting a behavioral healthcare workforce and this partnership will help us to address this need,” said Dr. Teresa Garate, SVP, Gateway Foundation, Inc. “We stand alongside Malcolm X College to provide the highest quality education grounded in best practices in the field and look forward to making a difference in our great city.”
“Community health workers are uniquely positioned to support families in their healing, and we are happy to be part of a partnership committed to growing and fortifying this workforce,” said Caitlin Stack, Program Director – Workforce Development with Public Health Institute of Metropolitan Chicago.
The program aims to train more than 150 students to become future community health workers who are uniquely qualified to serve people and communities impacted by OUD. The program initiated a soft launch in the spring semester 2021 with 20 students enrolled. One MXC student, Luis Ramirez, recalls how meaningful the program has been for him personally. He signed-up for the program having experienced the tragedy of losing his brother to a heroin overdose.
“This has been a rewarding experience for me because I am able to help people who feel hopeless, like they have no voice to turn their life around. I’m able to help them find a positive pathway to a happy and productive life,” Ramirez said.
For more information and to register for the program, visit
Opioid-Impacted Family Support Program Partners

University of Illinois at Chicago – Institute on Disability and Human Development
The Institute on Disability and Human Development (IDHD) is the University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities Education, Research and Service (UCEDD) for the State of Illinois. IDHD is a national leader in interdisciplinary academic training, community service, research and information dissemination all related to people with disabilities.

Gateway Foundation
Gateway Foundation is the country’s largest nonprofit treatment provider for adults specializing in substance use disorder treatment with co-occurring mental health disorders. For over 50 years, Gateway’s professional clinicians have helped over one million families recover from substance use disorders by developing personalized plans treating the underlying causes of their addiction.

Public Health Institute of Metropolitan Chicago
Public Health Institute of Metropolitan Chicago (PHIMC) enhances the capacity of public health and healthcare systems to promote health equity and expand access to services. PHIMC is committed to building a strong, culturally competent, and diverse public health workforce, and has partnered with agencies across Chicago to support delivery of high-quality services for prevention, treatment, detoxification, naloxone, and recovery from substance use disorders.

Malcolm X College
Malcolm X College, the historic community college on the city’s West Side, along with its satellite site, the Westside Learning Center, strive to provide accessible liberal arts and industry-informed, health-focused education that fosters personal and professional achievement. The college, located adjacent to the Illinois Medical District, offers associate degrees, short-term certificate programs, professional and personal development courses, and free GED and ESL programs, aimed at preparing students to achieve their goal, whether that is transferring to a Bachelor’s degree program or heading straight into the workforce.