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MASSACHUSETTS ASSOCIATION OF COMMUNITY HEALTH WORKERS

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CHW TESTIMONY INSPIRED THE MA BOARD OF CERTIFICATION OF CHWS TO FOSTER A LEVELED-PLAYING FIELD WHEN IT COMES TO CORI ON APPLICATION FOR CERTIFICATION

Whittier Street Health Center's Project ME CHW Supervisor Shawn Matthews, shown here, spoke with the Board during June’s general meeting

In the ebb and flow of establishing clear and easily enforceable protections against CORI limitations for CHWs with convictions and records of arrest, the last Board meeting deserved special mention and understanding. Notably, the National Employment Law Project's (NELP) presentation highlighted that a few of the Massachusetts’ laws already formulate fairer practices of occupational licensing/certification reform. Examples include adherence to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requirements, and the newly proposed removal of automatic blanket bans on the Board’s policy for Suitability for Certification. However, the Board must use care in its recommendations to ensure further requirements will not create significant barriers in the Certification process as this continues to unfold. We discussed that the absence of procedural safeguards, guidelines, or limits on discretion, can function as a blanket ban in itself.

Not only is the Board committed to reducing barriers to employment for CHWs and considering suitability for certification on a case-by-case basis, but is also recognized for bringing together a wide range of players from diverse fields as they look into their fact findings. An ambitious goal indeed but one that is achievable, as presented by Shawn, when he called on us all not to lose sight of the benefits that include certifying CHWs with CORI and the value they bring to their communities. Per Mr. Matthews, who supervises CHWs with CORI backgrounds, explained that many will shy away from these jobs for fear of going into certain neighborhoods- making this a plus for his team. However, being subjected to another CORI check can be “a nightmare to have to go through again,” thus disempowering CHWs from applying for Certification altogether. Pauline Quirion from Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS) also finds past CORI as a plus factor given that credibility and ease in relating to clients (people of color, black youth, gang members, etc.) and entering communities is an issue and avoids constant CHW-turnover.

The Board concluded the meeting by acknowledging the understanding of the different criminal dispositions as outlined by Pauline Quirion in her presentation, e.g. bearing in mind that CWOFs may not be the same as a guilty plea. In addition, NELP’s recommendations for improving the language on its policy for Suitability for Certification, e.g. expanding on the list of evidence of rehabilitation such as education, training, treatment programs, volunteer work, and community contributions, could be considered. To add, MACHW has proposed the use of an affidavit as a waiver for CHWs who are employed and for whom employers can demonstrate satisfactory CORI findings for employment, particularly for those who have been working in the field for the past two years. Stay tuned as our collective efforts explore these issues further and are formulated with the Division of Health Professionals Licensure.

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Next Steps on the Board of Certification

Unfortunately, the meeting set up for Tuesday, July 12 has been cancelled. The Board felt that given the last general meeting took place just last week, this will not allow for ample time to accomplish actionable items. The next meeting will take place Tuesday, August 9, from 9:30am - 1:00pm at the Division of Health Professions Licensure, 239 Causeway St, Boston (near North Station T stop) in Conference Rooms 417 A&B. The agenda will be posted one week prior to the meeting on the Board's website. The Board meetings are open to the public. MACHW members are welcome to attend.