Providing Language Services in State and Local Health-Related Benefits Offices


Changing demographics, along with federal and state policies, have increased the need for effective models of providing language services to people with limited English proficiency. Many benefits offices, which help people apply for Medicaid and other public programs, lack knowledge and resources, creating barriers to access and care. To assess this environment, the National Health Law Program visited benefits offices and conducted telephone interviews and surveys. Certain strategies emerged as promising practices, defined as creative, effective methods replicable by others. These include written language access plans; recruiting bilingual staff for dual roles (e.g., front desk and interpreter positions); interpreter competency testing; training for interpreter staff; telephone language lines; community resources such as universities, local advocates, legal aid organizations, and refugee resettlement organizations; and tapping into underused funding sources. The authors include an eight-step plan to help benefit offices develop a strategy to meet the needs of clients.

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