RID Region V Report
In the year leading up to the Region V conference in Hawaii, we learned from CM Hall, the Western Region Interpreter Education Center (WRIEC) Program Director that interpreters from the islands of Saipan and Guam were thriving with the support they were receiving through WRIEC. Being that Saipan and Guam are in Region V, CM asked RID affiliate chapters to consider co-sponsoring a Guam or Saipan interpreter to attend the Region V conference in Hawaii.
While Hawaii may seem exotic and other-worldly to interpreters on the mainland, it’s just another island to these Pacific Islanders. These interpreters have limited access to professional development, and almost all of these interpreters have never been in another room with a professional interpreter other than CM. CM’s request to the Region V Presidents’ Council struck a chord with IdahoRID, and we decided to bring this idea to the membership at the October 2011 membership meeting. At this meeting, a forward-thinking member brought forth this motion, which passed with overwhelming support:
That IdahoRID commit $2,400 to support a Guam or Saipan interpreter to attend the Region V 2012 Conference, which covers all expenses for one interpreter (registration, airfare, hotel, meals). Fundraising efforts will be employed from October 2011-October 2012. Should the full $2,400 not be raised, the remaining necessary funds to equal a total of $2,400 be supplemented from general funds. Motion carries.
Our chapter then set about the task of raising every penny of this $2,400 initiative. The very night the motion passed, the winner of a 50/50 raffle we had held donate her winnings so we started off with $381 toward our goal. We had $600 donated anonymously ($100 via our Web site from an interpreter in New England who had heard what we were doing). We then decided to host an event to raise the remaining $1,419. We decided upon a gold and silver fundraiser in the form of a “birthday party.” Several Idaho interpreters were having milestone birthdays during this past winter, which gave us a reason to gather and celebrate. We asked interpreters to bring any gold or silver they had laying around, and come celebrate. We Skyped in Geraldine Songao from Saipan. After checking with the Better Business Bureau and choosing a reputable assayer, the gold and silver donations earned us $1,320! This left merely $99 – which we raised at our silent auction event in April 2012. In fact, we earned $354 at the silent auction, so we’re $255 into our next initiative.
We’re thrilled that Saipan interpreter, Geraldine Songao, will be attending her first-ever interpreting conference this June. The cherry on top of IdahoRID’s statewide effort is that we challenged other Region V affiliate chapters to fully sponsor a Guam or Saipan interpreter as we did, and two chapters pulled off similar initiatives. We are grateful for the opportunity to pay it forward. We’re hopeful that we’ll continue to find and fund initiatives as meaningful as this.
In September of 2011, Health Care Authority (HCA) implemented a new state contract impacting access to communication for Deaf, Deaf-Blind and hard of hearing Medicaid clients in Washington State. The contract included many stipulations that were unfavorable for professional interpreters and did not support best practices, in part, because it did not take into consideration the Deaf, Deaf-Blind, or hard of hearing individual’s communication and language needs. From September 2011-December 2011, state records show the fill rate for Medicaid ASL interpreters plummeted from 97%, when services were contracted by the Office of Deaf and Hard of Hearing (ODHH), to an average of 28-32% under the HCA contract.
These dismal statistics were the impetus for the formation of a statewide task force to evaluate the obstacles to the provision of effective communication access during medical appointments and strategize possible solutions. Task force representation included the stakeholders from WSRID, Washington State Association for the Deaf (WSAD), ODHH, Deaf Blind Service Center (DBSC), Northwest Justice League, Seattle Children’s Hospital, advocacy representatives and community leaders.
The first task force meeting took place on April 28, 2012 in Seattle. This initial meeting included the sharing of incidents were there was a lack of communication access, a denial of the request for accommodations or encounters with interpreters lacking the skills to effectively work in medical situations. During the course of the meeting, five key themes were identified:
- Lack of communication access for Medicaid patients and/or their family – under the current HCA Broker System and the proposed Interpreter Services Program contract and the resulting low fill rate
- Lack of communication access for privately insured patients and/or their family – general access issues when accessing individual health care providers and/or using private insurance
- Interpreter quality issues – how can interpreters working in medical assignments be vetted to ensure quality communication access
- Pipeline issues – where will the next generation of qualified interpreters come from? Especially in light of the pending closure of the Seattle Central Community College ITP (one of two ITP programs in the state)
- VRI / Technology – when is it appropriate to use VRI?
The next task force meeting will take place in June with the goal of prioritizing and brainstorming solutions for the themes identified.
Although fallout from the HCA contract initiated this task force conversation, it is evident that the lack of communication access impacts Deaf, Deaf-Blind and hard of hearing individuals regardless of economic or social status. Gathering to discuss this topic with a universal perspective is a discussion that is long overdue.