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New York State’s Montgomery County Department of Social Services to Enhance How it Provides Language Services

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Contact: HHS Press Office
(202) 690-6343

New York State’s Montgomery County Department of Social Services to Enhance How it Provides Language Services
 

HHS’ Office for Civil Rights and Montgomery County Department of Social Services, New York Sign Voluntary Resolution Agreement


Under a resolution agreement reached with the Montgomery County Department of Social Services in the state of New York, people with limited English proficiency -- those who do not speak English as their primary language and who have a limited ability to read, write, speak, or understand English -- will have improved access to Medicaid and other social services programs.

The Montgomery County Department of Social Services (MCDSS) provides or administers a wide-range of publicly funded social services and cash assistance programs, including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as the Food Stamp Program), Medicaid, emergency assistance, general relief, adult protective services, and personal care services. Its programs reach approximately 28,000 people.

All programs operated by MCDSS and other agencies that receive federal financial assistance are prohibited by Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and implementing regulation from administering their programs in ways that have the effect of delaying or denying services to persons on the basis of their race, color, or national origin. Consistent with Title VI’s implementing regulation, 45 CFR Part 80, MCDSS is required to take reasonable steps to provide meaningful access by eligible limited English proficient (LEP) individuals to its programs, which typically involves providing language services, including oral interpretation and written translations.

“This agreement is an excellent example of how HHS helps social service providers to understand and fulfill their obligations under federal civil rights laws and regulations,” said OCR Director Georgina C. Verdugo. “We remain committed to helping other agencies take similar steps toward eliminating discrimination in the delivery of social and health care services throughout America.”

This resolution agreement resolves a discrimination complaint filed with OCR by a 56-year old woman with limited physical mobility. She alleged that MCDSS failed to provide her with a Spanish language interpreter as requested to assist her in communicating with caseworkers during visits to her home to determine her eligibility for services. Because no interpreter was provided and she could not communicate effectively with the case worker, the woman experienced a five month delay in receiving needed personal care services for which she was eligible.

Under the agreement, MCDSS voluntarily committed to take steps to ensure that the language access needs of its LEP clients are properly assessed and that appropriate language services are provided.

MCDSS agreed to provide timely language assistance services to ensure effective communication during home visits and evaluations; to notify LEP clients of the availability of free language assistance; to use family or friends as interpreters only when specifically requested by the client after the client has been notified of the option for free language assistance; to translate vital program documents; and to establish mandatory staff training on their obligations under Title VI.

OCR’s Region II Manager Michael R. Carter applauds MCDSS and states, “We are gratified that MCDSS recognizes the need for and has committed to providing appropriate language assistance at no cost and in a timely manner to limited English proficient individuals to ensure that they have an equal opportunity to participate fully in MCDSS’ programs.”

A copy of the agreement between HHS and MCDSS can be found at www.hhs.gov/ocr/civilrights/activities/agreements/. Also, additional information about OCR’s enforcement activities can be found at www.hhh.gov/ocr.

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Note: All HHS press releases, fact sheets and other press materials are available at http://www.hhs.gov/news.

Last revised: October 06, 2009

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