In a perfect world, Cecilia Zamora might dream of having the California Legislature pass a law requiring that the recipients of government contracts be allowed to charge for upgrading their cultural competence in spending taxpayer dollars.
“Because there is not a [state] mandate for cultural competency, they [service providers] get the money for services to Latino seniors, and call organizations like mine to get the capacity,” said Zamora, who heads the Latino Council, a community-based organization that supports and promotes cultural capacity for services to the Latino community.
“There needs to be a line item in their budget, mandatory dollars in there,” she added, “so they can work on increasing their cultural capacity for dealing with a particular demographic, such as Latino seniors and possibly immigrant seniors, which is a whole other ball of wax.”
At a more local level, Zamora would like to see the Board of Supervisors of Marin County, where the Latino Council is based in the San Francisco Bay Area, adopt elder support as one of the key focus areas for its next Countywide Plan.
So far, they’ve included Economy, Equity and Environment,” she said. “Last year, they chose Education. I’m hoping the work we’ve been doing for the past two years will happen in the 2015-’16 cycle.”
Zamora’s passion is to increase cultural competence and level the playing field for Latinos in general and older Latinos in particular. She often winds up training the service providers and working directly with Assemblyman Marc Levine, whose district includes Marin County, and others on the Assembly Committee on Aging and Long-Term Care, or with the Board of Marin County supervisors and its staff.
In the first year of her California Latino Age Wave grant, Zamora assessed the cultural competence needs of four organizations. In the second year, she said, she co-hosted Latino health forums with local City Council members and legislators.
Although she said that her work will culminate with a white paper and direct advocacy with the Board of Supervisors to include elders, Zamora said that the scope of her endeavors was initially inspired by a broader, multicultural needs assessment for seniors and senior-serving organizations that the Marin Community Foundation commissioned years ago.
“The work I’m doing is very specific to Latinos,” she said. “The more specific you are in targeting the group, the more accurate you can be in providing services that fit them.”
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