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Stephanie Benally

Navajo Department of Health

Community Health Representative Supervisor – Fort Defiance

Stephanie Benally is an 11-year veteran of the Community Health Representative (CHR) Program, promoting to supervisor in November. While budgeted for 16 people, Stephanie and her 8-person CHR team (and two office assistants) strive to remain nimble in serving the residents of Fort Defiance region. Through creative partnerships and lots of long days, Stephanie stretches the “typical” CHR job description to meet the growing needs of the community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Before COVID-19, much of Stephanie’s time was spent in the office, advising personnel and managing paperwork. But since early spring, when the pandemic began to leave its mark on the Navajo Nation, she joins her team in the field to coordinate services and deliver donated goods to some of the most vulnerable Navajo residents: infants, the elderly, and those with serious health conditions.

“Disaster response is a team effort,” said Stephanie. “When local chapters receive donated goods, a multitude of agencies call our team to assist in packaging and delivering items to those who need it most. Whether it be face masks, food boxes, water barrels or even propane, everyone is collaborating. I’ve never seen so many people work together to meet the increasing needs of our community.”

Stephanie

Stephanie proactively reaches out to elected officials and partner agencies in an effort to keep her team as safe as possible. For example, when she and her team did not have PPE, she reached out to council delegates and their staff members to secure face masks (and some members of her team even sewed their own). When Stephanie wanted to learn how to properly manage PPE, she connected with the Ganado Fire Department. Not only did she and her team receive training on the donning and doffing of PPE, but the firefighters provided two face masks, a set of goggles, and little shampoo bottles filled with hand sanitizer so that her team would have some protection in the field. Despite concerns for the safety of her CHRs, Stephanie continues to think outside of the box to make sure her team can be as effective in the field.

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Stephanie Benally and President - photo by Donovan Quintero and Navajo Times

“Many of our partners and leaders were not aware of the important role CHRs play on the front lines,” said Stephanie. “The fact that we’re out here, coordinating services for patients is opening people’s eyes. High health-risk residents of Navajo Nation would not have access to vital resources without our help, so it is critical that we are fully staffed and funded. Not only are all of the CHRs CNA-certified (certified nurse) and managing wellness checks, but we’re now delivering water, food, medication, cleaning supplies, and more to keep people home and safe.”

Stephanie

In addition to wellness checks and supplies, Stephanie’s team also delivers life-saving information about COVID-19. They find some people still don’t wear face masks when they bring supplies, even though masks are required in public on the Navajo Nation. But they see moments like these as opportunities for education about how to stop the spread of the disease. Handing out face masks, teaching residents how to protect themselves and their families, and demonstrating how to properly wash hands is now a part of the CHRs’ daily responsibilities.

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“My team is willing to go out every day because someone is counting on them,” said Stephanie. “We need to be the role models for our community. And that is what motivates me to keep going.”

Stephanie

Stephanie Benally is a Navajo Department of Health Community Health Worker Supervisor for the Fort Defiance service area. Stephanie resided in a few Navajo Nation communities while growing up, but she considers Crystal, NM to be her hometown. Stephanie rose through the ranks in the CHR program, initially joining in 2009 to support the Oak Springs, AZ community. Today, in addition to her role as a service unit supervisor, she shares field responsibilities for Crystal, NM and Red Lake, AZ with her colleague Pearlyn to cover staffing shortages.

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