November 29 2017 WASCLA Language Access Update Minutes

Notes from WASCLA Language Access Update Call
November 29, 2017

As the conference-call hosting system failed during the call and only a few people were able to re-connect, we are sharing these notes. We apologize for the inconvenience.

1. Update from Maha Jahshan, Office of Immigrant & Refugee Affairs (OIRA), City of Seattle. This office was established in 2012 and provides resources to City of Seattle departments and offices.
a. Mayor’s Executive Order on Language Access signed October 2, 2017 that directs city agencies to improve access to services. ORIA is developing a language access plan template and toolkit which will be shared with all City of Seattle offices. All departments will need to create a language access plan and include allocation in their 2018 budget proposals on language access expenditures for the 2019. 

2. Libby Weisdepp of the Washington Health Benefit Exchange gave an update on open enrollment for health insurance.
a. Open enrollment is going on now. Deadline for Qualified Health Plan  (commercial plans sold in the WA Healthplanfinder marketplace)  applications is Dec. 15th for coverage to start Jan. 1, 2018.
b. While the final national deadline to apply to the federal marketplace on is Dec. 15, in Washington, people can apply for QHP plans and dental plans until Jan. 15th. For those  applying  after Dec. 15, then start date for coverage will be Feb. 1.
c. WAHBE developed new online info & application tools, and offers language assistance services through its call center, websites in English and Spanish, and offers some translations. For more on enrollment in QHP and Apple Health plans, visit Washington Healthplanfinder website. Contacts for getting in-person help are also on the website.
d. Note that WA Apple Health (Medicaid) enrollment is open year-round. 

3. Preparing for 2018 Legislative Session:
a. Legislature convenes on Jan. 8, 2018. Session is scheduled for 60 days.  Additional special sessions may called by the Governor.
b. REQUEST: if you have information about any and all forthcoming legislation and related topics, to please share with the group, on the calls and by email to WASCLA.
c. Emergency Multilingual Notifications Bill - Recap on SSB 5046. The bill passed both houses & was signed by the Governor in mid-May, but due to a null & void clause in the bill it could not become law without approval of funding (approx. $300K for EMD) from the State Operating budget, a provision put forward by opponents. WASCLA teamed up with OneAmerica on a sign-on letter to the key legislators on the critical importance of the funding, and it got 100+ signatures.  Funding was approved & we were told  the letter played a big role in that. 
d. Bills that did not pass out of committees in the 2017 legislative session may become “carryover” bills in the 2018 session. This means the Legislature may re-introduce these bills and refer them directly to committee or whatever the next step is in the process for a particular bill. Among the bills of interest in this category are:
i. Multilingual Notifications of the Availability of Charity Care at Hospitals, HB 1359/SB 5231. Tony González of Columbia Legal Services, Wenatchee office, shared that the bill will be reintroduced  and expanded this year to include a requirement that all attempts to collect on a hospital debt will have some language access requirements. Columbia Legal Services will head up advocacy efforts.
1. REQUEST: gather stories of the impact that access to charity care, or lack thereof, has on individuals and communities and consider testifying in support.
ii. Requiring Interpreters for LEP Parents and Guardians of K-12 Students, HB 1451 in last Session, will be reintroduced.
iii. Versions of HB 1869/ SB 5682 Regulating Interpreter Services, were filed in the last 5 sessions and we are waiting to learn 2018 plans.  Past bills  would require Dept. of Enterprise Services to develop and implement a model for all state agencies, to use to purchase spoken language interpreter services directly from language access providers or through scheduling and coordinating delivery organizations, or both, among other things. 
1. information was shared on WASCLA’s position on the past versions, centered on need for evaluation of current programs and study of the issues for all agencies, before considering a centralized system.  Background was shared on WASCLA’s position that  it would be premature to  consolidate  interpreter services without in-depth research. See full details on WASCLA website.

4) WASCLA has been thinking about ways to move forward with need to create a position within state government for a statewide language access plan and a statewide language access coordinator role, outside of any one state agency.
We are prioritizing this issue for 2018 and welcome you to connect with us to get involved in work on next steps .

5) Other updates:
e. Rafael Estevez of Emergency Management Division shared that he has provided trainings to State Agency Liaisons to educate them on new communications law and language access resources from EMD, and began visiting local emergency  management sites to discuss language access processes
f. 2017 WASCLA Summit: the summit was attended by approximately 160 people,  about 1/3 of them were first time attendees. That was a great result of outreach from WASCLA members.
g. Next year’s summit will be held in western Washington, likely south Puget Sound. We will be looking at October 2018 dates; please send in known dates of other events so we can avoid potential conflicts .We are also looking for ideas of low-cost venues.  We are recruiting for the Summit Planning committee now.
h. Healthcare Committee: update on work of stakeholder group for past  year with HCA Interpreter Services  program on procurement planning for vendor contracts for signed and spoken languages, remote and in-person services, and quality assurance.  Remote RFP was released, bids were due Nov. 28. In-person RFP expected to be released mid-Dec. Group will continue to monitor issues, planning for future meetings. Welcome more participants.  Updates on continuing problems of lack of availability of ASL interpreters for Medicaid clients and efforts to remedy; a statewide workaround for providers to hire interpreters outside of IS contract,  is expected to start Jan. 1.

6. No call in December, next Language Access Update will be Jan. 24, 2018