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FOR RELEASE: May 25 , 2006
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

Certified Health Service Interpreters Save Providers Time and Resources

Since training began in October 2005, the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) has trained 82 persons in health service language interpretation and provided state certification to 56 language interpreters across the state. Because of this training, a growing number of State Certified Health Service Interpreters are providing increased communications and saving health care providers time and resources by providing timely and accurate information for their patients.

The State Certification Program trains and certifies interpreters to provide language interpretation services in all languages spoken in Oklahoma. The first training session began in October 2005 in Oklahoma City with about 19 students. Since that time, 82 students have graduated and of those, about 56 have gone on to become state-certified health services interpreters. So far, students in Spanish, Korean, Arabic, Myalalym, Indonesian, Croatian and Vietnamese language backgrounds have taken the class.

The next Interpreter Review/Training Course will be offered on June 22-24, 2006, at the Cleveland County Health Department, 250 12th Ave. N.E., in Norman. OSDH officials are encouraging health departments, clinics, hospitals, state agencies, private medical centers and persons who own their own language interpretation businesses to become state certified as health service interpreters.

Training will cover medically specific terminology, the legal and ethical role of health services interpreters, patient safety, HIPAA regulations on confidentiality, and linguistic accuracy. Written and verbal exams will be used to ensure that minimum criteria are met. Eligibility to enroll requires a minimum of a GED and the applicant must already be fluent in English and one other language. The applicant must also pass a required OSBI criminal background check. The review/training classes will be limited to 24 people.

“We want to encourage every medical community to register at least one of their current eligible staff for this or future training sessions,” said Demetrio (JR) Gutierrez, Ed.D., OSDH Office of Minority Health liaison.

This training is the first state-certified interpreter program in Oklahoma and is the only one in the United States that is voluntary. Oklahoma is only one of two states that offer state certification. The course consists of 20 hours of direct contact instruction in language and cultural aspects of communication, followed by a written exam in English and a verbal exam in the target language selected. The class registration fee is $385, which covers all training materials and a required OSBI background check. Testing for certification is given on a separate date at an additional cost.

The Institute for Issue Management and Alternative Dispute Resolution program at Oklahoma State University provides coordination and registration services for the state program. Testing sites chosen are based upon the need to carry training to all parts of Oklahoma in order to meet the needs of local communities. Future training events are planned in Oklahoma City quarterly (September, December, March, June), and in Tulsa semi-annually (August and February). Exact dates and locations will be posted at http://iimadr.okstate.edu/interpreter.htm.

“Interpretation services are required as part of the Title VI Civil Rights Act of 1964 and are supported by the JCAHO hospital accreditation organization. Interpretation services are also mandated for any medical organization receiving federal funding such are Medicare and Medicaid, pursuant to the Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Service (CLAS) mandates,” said Weldon Schieffer, program director for the OSU Institute for Issue Management and Alternative Dispute Resolution.

For more information about the certified medical interpreter program, contact OSDH Minority Health Liaison Demetrio (JR) Gutierrez, at (405) 271-1337.

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