skip to content



Washngton State Governor Wants to Eliminate funding for Medical and Social Service Interpreters / Video

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Our good friend, Lauren Berkowitz, who is an organizer with Washington Federation of State Employees reports:

“The governor, with DSHS suggestion, has proposed eliminating funding for medical and social service interpreter services. As of July. Can you imagine a Washington state that doesn’t fund interpreters for DSHS clients?

“Put simply, this is wrong. Denying access to medical care because of language is a violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The only way around it is for doctors not to take Medicaid clients. How could this possibly save the state money when it means that people will have to go to the ER for everything simply because the ER will have interpreters while the doctors and clinics will not?

“700 (and growing!) interpreters from across the state have come together to save the funding and fix the system. They’ve come up with companion bills in the House and Senate that propose three things:

1) Save funding for interpreter services – make it a law that the state must provide them.

2) Change the system. Right now, the state is paying 46% of its interpreter money to ADMINISTRATIVE COSTS! Between DSHS and the independent interpreters who do the work are not one but TWO middle men, each of whom takes a cut of the money just to upload the schedules of appointments and download them again, and which creates a logistical nightmare for the clients who need interpreters. The state can save money AND save the interpreter system simply by changing the method of delivery.

3) Give interpreters the right to form a union and have a voice in the system in which they work.

“In five minutes, you can do three things to help these bills pass and save the funding for interpreters – interpreters with whom many of you work, contract, and interact daily:

“A) Call your legislators to tell them to pass HR 3062 and Senate 6726 and why you care about interpreter services. This takes 2 minutes. You can reach them in Olympia at 1-800-562-6000.

(If you are not sure who your legislators are, use this handy tool on the state’s website.)

“B) Email your legislators and tell them to pass the bills and why you care about interpreter services. This takes 30 seconds if you use the form letter and 2 minutes if you write your own. Here is a form the union set up; you can fill in it and will automatically send it to your legislators PLUS the appropriate committee members.

“C) Ask everyone you know who’s a Washington resident to do the same (friends, family, neighbors, coworkers…..).

“Without the help of each one of you, we all might be living in a Washington state without interpreter services.

“I am counting on your support, as are 700 interpreters and 150,000 DSHS Medicaid clients who stand to lose access to medical care in July.”

Pro Bono and legal aid attorney resources - Pro Bono Net