History of Berkshire AHEC
In 1971, the federal government created Area Health Education Centers to “improve the supply, distribution, diversity and quality of the healthcare workforce”. In 1979, with federal funding, support from the UMass Medical School and guidance from Berkshire Medical Center, Berkshire AHEC was established as an independent nonprofit organization to enhance primary care education and address shortages in the health workforce.
Since its earliest days, Berkshire AHEC’s continuing education programs have helped the local health care workforce remain clinically current and prepared to address emerging issues. Working with input from task forces, advisory groups and program evaluations, Berkshire AHEC conferences and programs provide health care professionals of all kinds with continuing education credits in a wide range of disciplines including nursing, social work, psychology and mental health and substance abuse. In addition, Berkshire AHEC has co-sponsored many professional development opportunities offered by other organizations, providing continuing education credits.
Over the years, Berkshire AHEC has convened groups of professionals, agencies and consumers who work together to achieve solutions to common health and wellness concerns, including such issues as HIV/AIDS, substance use and teen pregnancy. For more than twenty years, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health contracted with Berkshire AHEC to provide support and facilitation to five community coalitions that worked on local challenges. Berkshire AHEC has been a partner in many community-based coalitions in order to assess needs and address community health concerns.
Currently, Berkshire AHEC supports the health care workforce with professional development opportunities and by providing continuing education credits and conference management services for other organizations. Since 2010, we have provided online food allergy training and certification as required for all Massachusetts food vendors.
We train Medical Interpreters to work in health care settings helping patients for whom English is not the first language. Today, our public health initiatives include coordinating the Youth Suicide Prevention Project and the Berkshire Tobacco-Free Community Partnership as well as active participation in the Berkshire Coalition for Suicide Prevention and the Berkshire Opioid Abuse Prevention Collaborative and a wide range of community health meetings.
Berkshire AHEC advances access to high quality healthcare & healthy lifestyles through academic and community partnerships.
Berkshire AHEC promotes healthy communities and healthy lifestyles. We do this through education of health professionals, promoting health and wellness, and engaging in population-based public health strategies, all in collaboration with community partners.
About Berkshire AHEC
Berkshire AHEC is part of the MassAHEC Network, a statewide system sponsored by Commonwealth Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and affiliated with the National AHEC Organization. More than 220 AHECs in the United States, including six in Massachusetts, support underserved communities in improving health by helping to recruit, train and retain a diverse health work force.
Founded in 1979, Berkshire AHEC supports the health and human services workforce with continuing education programs and by providing continuing education credits for nurses, social workers, mental health professionals and others. Our Medical Interpreter Program is designed to facilitate and enhance the communications between patient and provider during a health care encounter. Our public health initiatives work in partnership with other organizations to promote health and use policy, systems and environmental strategies to address critical health issues.
Located in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, Berkshire AHEC is a tax-exempt 501 (c) 3 organization overseen by a Board of Directors. Berkshire AHEC is certified by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Supplier Diversity Office as a W/NPO, a women-run non-profit organization.
Major funding is provided by the United States Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), the University of Massachusetts Medical School and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
Berkshire Community College (BCC) and the Berkshire Area Health Education Center (AHEC) are excited to announce the creation of the “BCC Area Health Education Collaborative,” a partnership designed to foster innovation and expand their impact and reach. In order to facilitate the development of joint programs, the Collaborative will reside on the College’s main campus.
Berkshire AHEC is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization dedicated to educating health professionals in order to ensure quality healthcare in the Berkshires. BCC shares AHEC’s goals of enhancing the quality of life in the region and strengthening the healthcare sector, which is vital to this rural economy. This strategic partnership promises to further the respective missions of Berkshire AHEC and the College; this will benefit the entire region.
“Through this collaborative partnership, BCC aims to enter a vital new market space while serving the needs of our community,” Jill Sasso Curtis, Dean of Community Engagement, Education and Workforce Development, said. “With regard to continuing education, the College’s ultimate goal would be to enhance the current Berkshire AHEC mission, serving current as well as new populations and creating new programs, conferences and events to meet their needs. While our focus will be on developing the local healthcare workforce and serving the health education needs of the Berkshire Community, we also plan to serve audiences beyond the Berkshires.”
The College and Berkshire AHEC are also interested in developing significant initiatives related to health professions education that would be credit-based. Together they will explore ways to increase the interest of prospective and current BCC students in health professions, including nursing, medicine, dental and public health, creating pathways from BCC into those professions.
The BCC and Berkshire AHEC teams are excited about the potential for the BCC Area Health Education Collaborative. “Our joint capabilities are tremendous. Each organization brings seasoned professionals, resources, valuable relationships in the community and beyond, and unique expertise to this endeavor. “I am confident that this will be an opportunity to achieve impact on a greater scale,” said Sasso Curtis. “This collaboration with Berkshire Community College, with their health professions programs and their commitment to the greater Berkshire Community, is very exciting,” said Joffe-Halpern.
Over the next year, the two organizations will create joint continuing education programs through the Collaborative, with the intention of integrating more deeply as the collaboration proves to be successful. During this exploratory period, they will work together to develop a shared vision for a long-term partnership. The Collaborative will be under the joint direction of the Executive Director of Berkshire AHEC and the College’s Dean of Community Engagement, Education and Workforce Development.