Diversity initiative helps nonprofits help others
The Kansas City Star
Very quietly, nonprofit agencies and their financial backers have worked a lot in the last three years to better serve this community’s diversity.
With guidance, they’ve delved into what they had avoided, overlooked or didn’t know how to tackle.
Some examples include the University of Missouri-Kansas City dental school creating scholarships for minority students. It formed a partnership with a Kansas City high school serving minority students to provide free dental services and then recruits students for the college.
At reStart, lower bunk beds at the homeless shelter have been set aside for older people, meeting the needs of our aging population.
ReStart is integrating transgender persons into the overall shelter population instead of segregating them. In addition, it is doing more to accommode persons of different faiths.
Staff training on interpreting skills has helped Cabot Westside Health Center better serve Latino clients.
The Jackson County Community Mental Health Fund created a community advisory committee for cultural competency to better serve the area’s needs. The effort has enabled those in nonprofits to treat each other better and provide improved services, said Theresa Cummings, director of program development with the mental health fund. “We’ve established a whole new trust,” she said.
The REACH Healthcare Foundation in 2009 began this Cultural Competency Initiative. It should make the area’s health and human service providers a national model when the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented in 2014.
It has grown to include three other funders who’ve provided about $1.2 million to eliminate disparities and improve health access and outcomes for residents. The recipient groups include the UMKC School of Dentistry, Harvesters, reStart Inc., Hope House, Children’s Mercy Hospital, Spofford, the Children’s Place and the mental health fund.
“To me, the real power of this is it teaches people a process so they can explore and overcome their self-imposed limitations in any realm,” said Judy Wright, executive director of the Shumaker Family Foundation, a supporter.
Nearly 30 agencies have benefited from improved communications and services to better meet clients’ needs. They had been under pressure to become more inclusive.
Jose Reyes, director of Cultural Competency Consulting, has guided the effort. In addition, Walt Boulden, executive director of the Resource Development Institute, evaluates the progress.
Carla Gibson, senior program officer with REACH Healthcare Foundation, said nonprofits wanted something meaningful that would help improve their organizations.
Earlier diversity efforts helped pave the way for the more comprehensive Cultural Competency Initiative. It included Kansas City Harmony and Project Equality. “The readiness of this area is simply amazing,” Reyes said.
This initiative gets groups to examine their internal structure, make improvements and enable people to be heard so services can be provided better.
Enduring structural changes in organizations have to occur before service delivery can be improved.
“We want to make an impact on disparities,” Reyes said.
Boulden added: “It’s an ongoing process where there is no end.”
Metropolitan Community College Health Sciences is involved. “Those are the future health care workers,” Reyes said.
The funding groups and recipient organizations are committed to the Cultural Competency Initiative for 10 years when they hope it will be self-sustaining. “The momentum is already there,” Gibson said.
The community needs to be ready. The diversity of people seeking services will increase because of the Affordable Care Act.
It’d be great if this program spreads nationwide.
To reach Lewis W. Diuguid, call 816-234-4723 or send email to Ldiuguid@kcstar.com.