Community health worker on the job at Vantage Plastics

Community health worker Lindsay Bechtel

Community health worker Lindsay Bechtel has been on site at Vantage Plastics supporting employees for the past year. As part if its mission of serving the community, the Standish based materials company Vantage Plastics partners with the Central Michigan District Health Department (CMDHD) to integrate this community health worker (CHW) on site. Vantage’s goal with providing a CHW for employees is to not only increase employee retention, but also ensure that employees have access to all the necessary resources to live successful lives.

Vantage Plastics human resources director Kari Gushow says that although Bechtel isn’t a Vantage employee in the traditional sense, she has “integrated so well” into Vantage’s workforce and culture.
Kari Gushow
“Lindsay has been able to bond with a lot of our employees and secured many professional relationships,” says Gushow. “She is a breath of fresh air.”

Bechtel’s job as a CHW is to connect Vantage’s employees with resources in the community that address various social determinants of health that could impact their ability to work. While a CHW can’t provide resources themselves, they can connect individuals and families with medical, financial, and social resources that play a role in maintaining a steady job.

“As a CHW, we become the link between the individual and community in which they live and work,” says Bechtel. “I’ve helped individuals move from living in their car into an apartment. I have helped individuals get food for their family just to help make it until the first paycheck.”

Bechtel says that part of Vantage’s mission is to connect with the greater community, and it was that dedication to the community that led her to working with Vantage directly, and Vantage already had some information on the specific needs of its employees and the community. She explains that when she began her work at the end of 2023, there were already discussions about collaborations between local corporations and public health with the hope that those collaborations would work well for both parties as well as the communities they serve. 

“One of the biggest things is when we as CHWs can walk alongside employees and meet needs in their life to make the best of a situation,” says Bechtel. “We want to keep folks employed, but we also want them to see their employment as something stable and make sure they don’t lose that stability.”

Since Bechtel began seeing employees at Vantage, the company has seen turnover in an employee’s first 90 days decrease — 70% of employees who worked directly with Bechtel since last year are still employed with the company. Gushow says that having Bechtel on-site not only has had a positive impact on Vantage’s employees, but also a “residual effect” in the community.

“The numbers speak for themselves. Having a CHW is just another piece that makes it so enticing to work here,” Gushow says. “The kind of support we’re providing is barrier breaking and makes us an employer of choice.”

A community health worker connects Vantage’s employees with resources in the community.

“Since she started, Lindsay and the employees she works with have reported that almost 400 needs were successfully met,” says CMDHD community connections supervisor Amelia Kasper. 

Kasper points out that having the CHW on-site at Vantage Plastics has improved employee wellbeing by making employment and finances less of a worry for employees. When employees have sustainable work and income, they can then “address other needs in more sustainable ways.”

“Lindsay provides a success story every month,” says Kasper. “It’s fun to see how this is changing the culture of how employees see their employer, and it becomes very evident the more you talk to the employees working with her.”

Steve HallCMDHD health officer Steve Hall explains that the idea of bringing a CHW on-site at Vantage developed after Vantage collaborated with nonprofit Well Outreach, which helps individuals and families with personal growth and financial stability. Hall says that support from the Vantage team is what has made this partnership so successful.

“You can’t just go to any business and do this successfully,” says Hall. “This situation shows that we could make a case that these partnerships work, and we can make CHWs’ work more sustainable through more funding for public health.”

With help from the Michigan Health Improvement Alliance (MiHIA), the project received a grant from the de Beaumont Foundation, which provided funds to both develop this public health and private corporation partnership and ascertain how the relationship could ultimately impact retention.

“Seeing an employee as a human person is very important,” Gushow concludes. “Everyone can see the impact the program has made. People’s lives are being changed.”

Rylee Barnsdale is a Michigan native and longtime Washtenaw County resident. She wants to use her journalistic experience from her time at Eastern Michigan University writing for the Eastern Echo to tell the stories of Washtenaw County residents that need to be heard.

Photos courtesy Vantage Plastics and subjects.

The Yours, Mine, and Ours — Public Health series highlights how our state's  public health agencies keep us healthy, safe, and informed about issues impacting physical and mental health in our communities, homes, workplaces, and schools. The series is made possible with funding from the Michigan Association for Local Public Health.
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