Elms, Holyoke Health Center Partner on Cultural Competency Program

CHICOPEE — Thirty employees of the Holyoke Health Center are taking a 10-session Elms College course called “Pathways to Cultural Competence,” a pilot program designed to increase staff awareness of social identity and culture, and to enable them to identify how this impacts the care they provide to patients from different cultures. All participants are taking the course for college credit, which they may use to either begin or continue study for a degree.

The course is being taught at the Holyoke Health Center site by Elms Social Work Professor Mary Brainerd and Kent Alexander, director of the Office of Intercultural Programs.

“This pilot program will provide participating health care professionals with a thorough introduction to developing cultural competency, demonstrating their connectedness to their entire work-related population, and helping them to give back to the community,” said Alexander.

Holyoke Health Center is an accredited community health center that has been providing medical and dental care in Holyoke since 1970. Its 220 employees include full-time medical and dental providers, nurses, bilingual medical and dental assistants, case managers, outreach workers, financial counselors, and more. More than 20,000 people are treated each year at the Holyoke site and a new, state-of-the-art facility in Chicopee.

“The commitment to cultural competency throughout our entire staff at both our health centers is an important component of our mission,” said Jay Breines, executive director of the Holyoke Health Center. “The Elms College partnership is a major opportunity to help us continue to meet the challenges of providing enhanced access to a full range of health care services for all of our patients, while at the same time conveniently providing opportunities to our staff to advance their education and careers through a meaningful pathway.”

The on-site course is supported by a Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation grant awarded to Holyoke Health Center. Breines said the grant was based on the foundation’s understanding of the importance of cultural competency in improving the health of Massachusetts residents.

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