Health Professional Equity Initiative

The Health Professional Equity Initiative (HPEI) is an innovative, one-of-a-kind pilot program, established by the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) in partnership with the Rhode Island Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner (RIOPC).

Systemic barriers and a lack of career pathways to move from paraprofessional to licensed health professional roles have created racial and ethnic disparities such as limited career advancement opportunities for paraprofessionals, insufficient availability of culturally and linguistically competent clinical care, and poorer outcomes for black and indigenous people of color (BIPOC) patients and clients.

By providing targeted investments and supports for home & community-based services (HCBS) paraprofessionals, who are disproportionately women, immigrants, and people of color, the health professional equity initiative aims to increase equity, diversity, and cultural and linguistic competence among licensed health professionals in Rhode Island.

The initiative supports career advancement of participants by covering the cost of postsecondary education for paraprofessionals to continue their education as well as funds to cover additional wrap-around support needs for individuals, such as books, fees, supplies, childcare, transportation costs, etc. Possible uses of financial assistance may vary based on level of education/degree, level of need, and type of wrap-around supports needed, which are provided via the RIOPC’s Rhode Island Reconnect program.

“We want Rhode Islanders, especially those in the BIPOC community, to enjoy increased job satisfaction and stability in their professions as they advance to higher-wage, higher-credentialed positions,” added Shannon Gilkey, Rhode Island’s Postsecondary Commissioner. “Our RI Reconnect Program aims to do that. Simultaneously, local employers benefit from a highly skilled, upwardly mobile and invested workforce that reflects their client base.”

This program endeavors to support, stabilize and strengthen HCBS provider agencies (long-term care & behavioral health industries); invest in the home and community-based services direct care workforce while increasing job satisfaction and retention rates; address barriers to career entry as well as the completion of higher education programs; and support career pathways and opportunities for professional advancement. This innovative program is currently funded by one-time American Rescue Plan Act monies and will run from Fall 2022 – March 2025.

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