Media release

Rhode Island Foundation awards $1.4 million to strengthen and diversify health care workforce

Goal is to reduce obstacles for equitable health care delivery by supporting a more diverse staff at all levels

The Rhode Island Foundation has awarded $1.4 million in grants focused on retaining a racially, culturally, ethnically and linguistically diverse health care workforce in an effort to help reduce health disparities by addressing obstacles to the equitable delivery of health care.

"Long-term workforce challenges and shortages across diverse care settings, both clinical and community-based, have become even more critical the past few years – revealed and accelerated by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic," said Neil D. Steinberg, the Foundation's president and CEO. "Building and sustaining a workforce that can provide high-quality care and services to all Rhode Islanders necessitates addressing a number of interrelated issues, and one of those is ensuring that the health sector workforce better reflects the growing communities it serves."

Project Weber/RENEW will improve the support system for its peer-health workforce by providing additional mental health supports, offering retirement accounts, improving staff's ability to navigate technology and keep track of their work with clients, and offering innovative supports to minimize burnout and promote career development.

“As an organization in which the majority of our team are peers to the individuals we serve, a healthy, supported and stable staff is absolutely critical to the achievement of our mission. This funding will not only allow us to provide additional concrete investments in our staff members' financial futures but will also enable us to support their overall health and well-being in a more holistic way,” said Colleen Daley NDoye, executive director.

Tides Family Services, a statewide community-based family social services provider with four facilities in the cities of Providence, Pawtucket, West Warwick, and Woonsocket, will use its grant to create innovative career ladders in its existing apprenticeship program to administer paid on-the-job learning opportunities and to create new entry points into the behavioral health field for workers of color.

“For nearly 40 years, Tides Family Services has provided community-based services to families and youth at risk of being separated from their families through costly out-of-home placements,” said Tides Family Services CEO Beth Lemme-Bixby. "This will keep more Rhode Island youth in their communities by creating greater opportunities for Rhode Islanders of color in the behavioral health professions and enhancing the quality of services we provide to the culturally rich communities we serve.”

BAYADA Home Health Care will launch a new program, Clinician Learning toward Equitable Advancement and Progression (Clinician LEAP) Program. The Clinician LEAP Program will establish an intermediate clinical career step between Certified Nursing Assistants and Licensed Practical Nurses for the organization's staff.

“Expanding health care access and career opportunities go hand in hand. Supporting our experienced clinicians by elevating their skills and expanding growth opportunities are key ways we can deliver better care for more Rhode Islanders,” said Michael LaRosa, BAYADA’s division director of workforce development.

The other five organizations receiving grants are:

  • Centro de Innovacion Mujer Latina will develop and strengthen its community care staff, which provides culturally competent behavioral health and substance recovery treatment, referral, and peer support to Spanish-speaking patients.
  • Clinica Esperanza/Hope Clinic will improve clinical workflows, policies and procedures; will enhance employee policies and practices and will implement progressive and supportive policies in order to create a more supportive workplace that prioritizes employee wellbeing and mental health.
  • The Community Provider Network of Rhode Island will use its grant to work with its member developmental disability service provider agencies to advance equity and diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging practices by increasing retention of existing staff and focusing on pathways to diversifying executive teams.
  • PACE Organization of Rhode Island will use its grant to introduce a program to retain and advance its staff, particularly into the management levels of the organization; and to implement an explicit framework and process for infusing awareness of diversity, equity, and inclusion into organizational decisions and processes.
  • Care New England Health System will design and implement an executive training program for mid-level staff from diverse, under-served and marginalized populations.

"A workforce with relevant lived experience is a critical piece of offering culturally competent, high-quality care. There is increased awareness that creating an environment of culturally relevant and appropriate treatment reduces a significant obstacle for equitable health service delivery as well as evidence of improved care effectiveness, experience and retention when patients share a racial and/or cultural identity with their care providers," said Zach Nieder, the Foundation's Senior Strategic Initiative Officer.

The Foundation looked for proposals that connected to broader anti-racist and diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts; included meaningful design and participation from the workforce served by the proposal; and, where possible, responded to the social determinants of workforce retention.

"While some entry-level, direct care jobs have a concentration of diverse employees, most occupations are not sufficiently representative of the broader community. The need to grow and sustain a diverse workforce that can improve health quality, access, and outcomes — and advance health equity — is of heightened importance given existing racial and ethnic disparities in health outcomes have been compounded by the inequitable impact of the COVID-19 pandemic," said Nieder.

The funding is through the Foundation's Fund for a Healthy Rhode Island.

The Rhode Island Foundation is the largest and most comprehensive funder of nonprofit organizations in Rhode Island. Working with generous and visionary donors, the Foundation raised more than $75 million and awarded nearly $84 million in grants last year. Through leadership, fundraising and grant-making activities, often in partnership with individuals and organizations, the Foundation is helping Rhode Island reach its true potential. For more information, visit