Testimony in Support of S-2867 – Ladders to Licensure Senate Finance Committee

Last updated: June 03, 2024

The Economic Progress Institute strongly supports Senator Cano’s S-2867, which would establish the Ladders to Licensure program to fund public or private partnership that provide opportunities for healthcare paraprofessionals to pursue higher education degrees and health professional licensure.

Primary care serves as a foundation in our state, ensuring families’ safety, support, and well-being. However, due to the stress the COVID-19 pandemic has placed on health professionals, many have quit or retired, jeopardizing the health of Rhode Islanders.1 Rhode Island has fewer physician assistants, personal care, and service assistants per 100,000 people than Massachusetts and Connecticut. This healthcare provider shortage is exacerbated by the fact that community health centers are seeing an increase in patients as the number of healthcare professionals continues to decrease.2 When barriers to professional advancement are too difficult to overcome, particularly educational and financial obstacles, healthcare providers may ultimately choose to leave the field entirely.3 Major barriers, such as expenses associated with higher education requirements, lack of financial incentives, and systemic racism and implicit bias in education programs, prevent advancement within the workforce. 4 These barriers have also resulted in a lack of diversity in the healthcare workforce. Without adequate representation, healthcare providers struggle to effectively treat the community, thereby jeopardizing both community health and trust.

Rhode Island must take immediate legislative action to address this workforce shortage. By implementing the Ladders to Licensure program, we will diversify the professional workforce by offering opportunities to those aspiring to enter or advance in the healthcare field. This legislation will help facilitate access to higher education for paraprofessionals and eliminate training barriers faced by underrepresented groups. Additionally, it will foster public-private partnerships among healthcare workers, educators and state agencies. We strongly urge passage.

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