Contact: HHS Office for Civil Rights
August 21, 2014
Language Assistance Services Expanded at Mee Memorial Hospital
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has entered into a voluntary resolution agreement with Mee Memorial Hospital (MMH) to expand and improve accessibility for persons with limited English proficiency (LEP). MMH consists of a main hospital and five clinics serving approximately 50,000 people throughout 2,500 square miles in rural California.
This agreement is the result of three complaints filed in 2012 from patients with LEP who speak Triqui Bajo, an indigenous Mexican language. All complainants indicated that they sought health care at MMH, but had great difficulty communicating and understanding health care staff because insufficient language access services, such as oral language Triqui Bajo interpreters, were provided.
Upon receipt of these complaints, OCR investigated whether MMH provided persons with LEP meaningful access to their programs in accordance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI). Title VI prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin. In many cases, failure to provide adequate language assistance services at no cost to ensure persons with LEP can access critical services is a form of national origin discrimination and a violation of Title VI. Prior to the completion of OCR’s formal investigations, MMH and OCR agreed to pursue an expeditious, voluntary resolution agreement to address the language access issues raised in the complaints.
Under the agreement, MMH will take critical steps to ensure persons with LEP have meaningful access to its services, activities, and programs at no cost. Specifically, MMH has agreed to revise and implement its language access policies and procedures that will ensure oral interpretation and written translation services for those with LEP; designate a coordinator who ensures language assistance for individuals with LEP; appoint a community advisory board, that includes members of the local community, to address community needs and access to qualified interpreters; provide notice of the right to free language assistance to persons with LEP in a language they can understand; and conduct employee training. Through this agreement, MMH will better ensure that patients with LEP can access important health care services as well as understand and communicate with their doctors and nurses.
OCR enforces multiple civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, disability, age, sex, and religion by health care and human service providers. When OCR determines that there has been a violation of the law, OCR seeks voluntary compliance and provides technical assistance to health care and human service providers. OCR also has the authority to seek remedies as necessary in the event of noncompliance
To learn more about non-discrimination and health information privacy laws, your civil rights and privacy rights in health care and human service settings, and to find information on filing a complaint, visit us at http://www.hhs.gov/ocr.