Virginia Language Connections (VLC) is Virginia Poverty Law Center’s language access and interpreter scholarship program. VLC seeks to break down the language barrier preventing community member from accessing care and to connect them with vital health resources.
Since VPLC’s statewide health enrollment assistance program began in 2013, assisters have identified barriers to health care access including lack of health insurance and limited knowledge about free clinics and community health clinics. A lack of in-person interpretation in community members’ preferred languages has also prevented Virginians from accessing care. Our findings include that:
- Members of different immigrant communities do not feel comfortable with or trust telephonic interpretation (such as a language line). Providers also expressed difficulty with using telephonic interpretation services and obtaining an interpreter.
- Members of different immigrant communities statewide (especially in rural areas) have expressed they would prefer to try self-medicating at home versus going to a provider who speaks only English.
- Immigrant community members are prone to complicated medical diagnoses, as they do not address health issues in a timely manner. They are more likely to end up in emergency care.
- Many community health centers are interested in and have the funds to maintain an interpreter position but do not have a qualified pool of candidates.
- Those who are qualified for interpreter positions have difficulties accessing the financial and educational resources needed to complete the interpreter program.
In response to these barriers, VLC launched in fall 2023, funding 10 qualified candidates to participate in a language proficiency exam and the nationally recognized Bridging the Gap interpreter certification program. Upon completion of the program, we will connect candidates with job opportunities at designated community health centers within their region in Virginia. Participants in the 2023-2024 Virginia Language Connections cohort will complete the Bridging the Gap program in November 2023 and commit to a 12-month work agreement with a participating health clinic.
Are you part of a clinic organization that would be interested in hosting a candidate, or do you have questions about applying for the VLC program? Contact email@example.com to learn more.
Infographic from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services about health care access and people with Limited English Proficiency (LEP):