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New consortium focuses on improved training for home health aides

UMass Chan, state focus on improving education opportunities for direct care workers

  Mass. Higher Ed. commissioner Carlos E. Santiago, with Commonwealth Medicine CMO David Polakoff, MD

Mass. Higher Ed. commissioner Carlos Santiago, with Commonwealth Medicine CMO David Polakoff, MD

The Massachusetts Department of Higher Education and UMass Medical School have formed a statewide consortium to improve training and education for direct care workers, who provide assistance to elders, people with disabilities and those with a chronic illness. The consortium held a project launch meeting March 28 at UMass Medical School’s Commonwealth Medicine division.

“This new effort led by UMass Medical will assist direct care workers who do critical, front-line work in the health care field,” said Carlos E. Santiago, commissioner of Higher Education for Massachusetts. “In a state that unfortunately has one of the larger gaps in income inequality, the training of home health aides and other direct care workers will give them the educational credentials they need to advance in the health care field, while also helping employers professionalize their staff and realize better outcomes in patient/client care.”

Historically, these workers have low wages and few advancement possibilities. Nonetheless, demand for direct care workers is skyrocketing, in part due to the state’s aging population. The consortium will expand opportunities for direct care workers who seek to advance their careers and increase their wage earning potential.

“We believe that part of our mission as Massachusetts’ public medical school is to ensure that the state has a strong and capable health care workforce, and that individuals interested in health care careers have access to education, training and mentorship to be skilled and effective in their roles,” said David Polakoff, MD, professor family medicine & community health and chief medical officer for Commonwealth Medicine.

“This new partnership builds upon the existing Massachusetts Direct Care Workforce Training Program managed by UMass Medical School on behalf of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services,” Dr. Polakoff said. That program provides training in core competencies so that individuals can become qualified home care aides, as well as personal care homemakers and attendants.

Project partners will update the training program into one curriculum that can be offered statewide, starting with the community college partners. Students will have the opportunity to enter into a program at a variety of levels, starting with certificate programs and leading to a degree.

Consortium partners include Bristol Community College, Greenfield Community College, Quinsigamond Community College, Northern Essex Community College, MassBay Community College, Middlesex Community College, UMass Dartmouth, Partnerships for a Skilled Workforce, Home Care Aide Council and the Massachusetts Senior Care Association/Labor and Workforce Development.