HCN News & Notes

State Sen. Eric Lesser Hosts Livestream with Caring Health Center’s Tania Barber

SPRINGFIELD — State Sen. Eric Lesser was recently joined by Tania Barber, president and CEO of Caring Health Center, for a livestream conversation on coronavirus testing and community outreach. Over the past 25 years, Caring Health Center has become a critical healthcare resource for residents of Greater Springfield, and specifically for its refugee and immigrant population.

The full hyperlinks to the livestream footage can be accessed here and here.

Barber spoke about her own path within Caring Health Center, having started out as a switchboard operator in 1996 and gradually moving on to new positions of leadership within the organization. She described the far-reaching effects of COVID-19 on the center’s operations, including the scaling back of its medical capacity and the difficult shift to telehealth. Although 30% of the center’s workforce were furloughed for the first three weeks of the pandemic, they were quickly brought back on board to help manage the new reality. In the meantime, Caring Health Center has been playing an important role in community testing and contact tracing.

The telehealth operation has been a particularly challenging undertaking for Caring Health Center, given the diverse population it serves. The organization typically treats patients in 37 different languages, and as a result, staff members have begun recording videos in different languages in order to assist patients who might not otherwise receive the information they need.

“At Caring Health Center, that’s what we do,” Barber said. “Making sure that we reduce barriers — whether that’s socioeconomic barriers, language barriers — that’s who we are, and that’s what we do.”

The two also discussed the importance of additional funding and legislative support for the healthcare industry, specifically for community health organizations. Barber explained that Caring Health Center operates on a budget that is already stretched thin, and it lacks the resources to scale up its testing and contact tracing capabilities. She noted that a bill currently before the Legislature, “An Act Putting Patients First” (S.2769), includes provisions related to telehealth and community support.