FRESNO COUNTY: Breaking Down Language Barriers to Health Care
The Fresno County Supervisors next month will consider allocating special federal funding to a proposed program that would train 20 people "to interpret legal and medical information for Southeast Asian refugees" unable to speak English, the Fresno Bee reports. The county Human Services Advisory Committee has recommended that supervisors give Lao Family Community of Fresno, a social services organization, $215,948 in federal funds set aside for refugee employment and social services. The money would pay to train 15 volunteer interpreters for Lao Family's proposed Refugee Outreach and Interpreting Project and would allow the groups to hire five full-time interpreters. Officials hope the program will help knock down language barriers that often keep Southeast Asian refugees from applying for public health services for themselves and their children. "This project is designed to let these families know how to find medical services because there are services available," HSAC Chair James Bort said. Lao Family Executive Director Pao Fang said past reliance on improperly trained clinic and hospital staff to communicate with refugees was inadequate. "I give a lot of credit to those who have been doing the job in the past, but I feel they have been assigned to do something they are not supposed to do," he said (Anderson, 11/25). A recent audit of California statewide agencies revealed that while the Department of Health Services was the "only agency to provide language assistance," inconsistencies remained. Although health department materials are translated into a dozen languages, not all forms and publications are produced in each one. For example, 169 forms and 155 publications can be obtained in Spanish, but only five such forms and 11 publications were available in Hmong. Spokesperson Lea Brooks said the department is reviewing the audit, noting, "Our managed care program has made a very strenuous effort to relate to beneficiaries in their own languages and cultures." The 1973 Dymally-Alatorre Bilingual Services Act stipulates that all state agencies must offer translated documents and bilingual staff for non-English speaking populations that comprise more than 5% of customers (AP/Sacramento Bee, 11/22).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.