Nation's First State Task Force Addressing the Barriers Facing Foreign-Born Healthcare Professionals Meets

Task force seeks to accelerate the contributions of thousands of foreign-trained immigrant and refugee healthcare professionals in Massachusetts

BOSTON, May 21, 2014 — On Monday morning, three state offices came together with over a dozen major stakeholders in the Massachusetts healthcare profession to begin a discussion like no other in the nation — how to systematically address the career and professional barriers facing immigrant and refugee healthcare professionals across the state. The Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS), the Office for Refugees and Immigrants (ORI), and the Office of Access and Opportunities (OAO) met with the other stakeholders at EOHHS in a two-hour session that marks the first step in developing a comprehensive policy agenda to be presented early this fall to Governor Patrick, the first such study undertaken by any state government.

Kathleen Betts, Assistant Secretary for Children, Youth, and Families in EOHHS, said, “We were happy to convene this key first meeting at our agency offices to tackle an issue that dampens the potential of not only the foreign-born healthcare professionals, but also of our healthcare system and economy as a whole. We know that 40% of immigrants in Massachusetts have a bachelor’s degree or higher. And we know that the need for health care professionals in Massachusetts are expected to grow by over 20% by 2020. But we also know that foreign-trained nurses, to take one example, are currently seven times more likely to work in low-paying, low-skilled professions than their U.S.-trained counterparts. We can and should address that disparity, for the betterment of all of us.”

The meeting began by laying out the scope of the issue in detailed state and national statistics compiled and presented with the aid of the New Americans Integration Institute, housed at the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA). Healthcare professionals, educators, representatives of medical licensing boards, major providers, and other key stakeholders then fleshed out the issue as they experience it, and finally the group set an agenda that will provide the Patrick administration with a detailed work plan for short, medium and long term policy actions, as well as action steps that individual stakeholders can take.

Co-chaired by Josiane Martinez, ORI Executive Director, and Ron Marlow, Assistant Secretary for Access and Opportunities, the task force embodies the Patrick Administration's long-standing commitment to better integrate immigrants and refugees into the fabric of the Commonwealth, a commitment highlighted in the administration's 2009 "New Americans Agenda" policy platform on immigrant integration. The Administration's launch of the current task force was publicly announced
at a symposium in immigrant professional integration held by MIRA and its partners at the Boston Foundation on April 25.

"We are proud to see the state executive agencies championing an issue that is so critical to our immigrant communities and the Commonwealth as a whole--and that makes Massachusetts a model for states across the country," said MIRA Executive Director Eva Millona. "MIRA was a key partner in the community engagement process that created the New Americans Agenda, and through our New Americans Integration Institute we continue to shine a light on the challenges and opportunities facing immigrant and refugee professionals in Massachusetts. We look forward to working with our state agency partners and so many other critical stakeholders as part of this effort."