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CT immigrant advocacy group wants more resources for non-English speakers at hospitals

Advocates rallied in support of an initiative called "Access to Health Without Barriers" on Oct. 5, 2022, in Hartford
Make the Road
Advocates rally in support of the "Access to Health Without Barriers" initiative on Oct. 5, 2022, in Hartford, Conn. The immigrant community, health supporters and activists are calling for more professional interpreters in hospitals and clinics in Hartford.

The number of Connecticut residents over the age of five who speak a language other than English in the home is 22%, according to U.S. census data.

Teresa Rosario is one of them. She is originally from Puerto Rico but has been living in Hartford for many years. Rosario is bilingual and often accompanies people who aren’t as fluent in English to hospitals, where she said she has seen discrimination against non-English speakers.

“The secretaries -- they don’t speak Spanish. And they don’t pay attention to them,” Rosario said. “So the patient gets confused, intimidated. There is no interpreter there -- so they put this person in another room, and they take another person who speaks English.”

Rosario is with Make the Road Connecticut, an immigrant advocacy organization that rallied on Wednesday for better health care services for non-English speaking communities. The rally launched a wider initiative called “Access to Health Without Barriers.”

Make the Road is advocating for Hartford hospitals and clinics to hire more professional interpreters and provide health care and insurance information -- both written and over the phone -- in commonly spoken languages aside from English.

Wendy Cardenas, organizing director for Make the Road Connecticut, said the lack of financial and insurance information in languages other than English can discourage people from accessing health care.

“The lack of staff being supportive and actually taking the time to explain resources that clinics know about [means that] some people don’t go to the clinics because they think they can’t afford it,” Cardenas said. “There is money allocated to hospitals and clinics that people can apply for.”

Make the Road Connecticut also included cultural sensitivity training in its list of demands.

When asked for comment, Hartford HealthCare provided a link to its website with information -- in English and Spanish -- about its Neighborhood Health programs, including mobile van clinics.

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