Supporting Vermont’s Migrant Workers: A Growing Need

The National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health named Naomi Wolcott-MacCausland as Vermont’s 2023 Community Star for her dedicated work leading UVM Extension’s migrant health programs.

Naomi Wolcott-MacCausland (third to the left) and her team of Bridges to Health Community Health Workers at a Vermont dairy farm. (Photo: Naomi Wolcott-MacCausland)

As migrant workers fill critical labor shortages on Vermont’s farms and beyond, Wolcott-MacCausland and her team work tirelessly to help these vulnerable populations access healthcare and other vital services.

In recent years, Vermont has seen a surge in migrant workers from Mexico, Central and South America amidst nationwide record immigration levels. Wolcott-MacCausland’s caseload has nearly quadrupled as her team serves more non-agricultural workers in construction, hospitality and other industries. This growth brings richness from increased diversity but also greater demands for support services. As Wolcott-MacCausland stated, “Migrant workers are filling jobs that otherwise would go unfilled.”

While the demand increases, funding for UVM Extension’s migrant health initiatives remains precarious, currently relying on temporary COVID relief monies and small grants. Sustained funding is needed to continue meeting the healthcare and social service needs of Vermont’s invaluable migrant workers. In the meantime, the Bridges to Health program has launched a campaign to help fill the immediate funding gap.

With migrant workers fueling Vermont’s economy, supporting their health and wellbeing is both a moral and practical imperative. Wolcott-MacCausland affirmed, “As our state becomes increasingly more diverse, we need to increase services that support all people.” UVM Extension’s migrant health programs exemplify this commitment.

Read the full article on the University of Vermont site. Read an interview with Wolcott-MacCausland on the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health site (click on the map on the state of Vermont – VT for the interview). And watch an interview with Wolcott-MacCausland on Across the Fence:

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