Indiana County Refuses Translation Services for Burmese Man
Legal and health advocates are concerned that an Indiana county's refusal to fund translation services for a Burmese man with a contagious disease is symptomatic of a nationwide problem, the Indianapolis Star reports. The Hendricks County Commissioners announced last week that they will not provide funding for the county Department of Health to hire a translator for the man, who is under quarantine and does not speak English. Steve Ostermeier, president of the county board, asked, "Are we required to spend money to talk to him, or is it this guy's responsibility to be able to understand (English)? How does he survive not being able to speak English?" County Attorney Greg Steuerwald added, "This is not a legitimate (county) expense." But Jeff Boulden of Indiana Legal Services Organization said that he believes that a requirement that government entities receiving federal funding provide translation services also applies to individual counties. "This is becoming a problem on a large scale nationwide," he said. Linda Hibner, Hendricks County's public health nurse, first used a paid translation service to communicate with the patient, and the commissioners agreed to pay for that $135 bill. However, they balked at paying for any additional services, which could cost upwards of $40 per hour. Hibner said providing proper care to patients who do not speak English is "too important to take a chance on getting inaccurate translations," adding that the case of the Burmese man will likely be followed by similar ones involving people of various backgrounds. Kristin Garvey, assistant director of the International Center of Indianapolis, said that the commissioners "must be sympathetic to the plight of these people. We need to meet them at least halfway" (Evans, Indianapolis Star, 10/8).