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Doctor talking to interpreter and patient

Many people who are deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing experience barriers to culturally and linguistically appropriate health care or communication access to health care. Therefore, health care and hearing health remains a special interest topic for MNCDHH, even though it is currently not a part of our strategic 5 year plan.

In order to ensure that all patients, regardless of hearing (and vision) status, receive communication access for their health care information, MNCDHH and community stakeholders have done the following:

What are the issues?

State and federal law do not cover the cost of some services or products that are essential to the health and well-being of people who are deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing, including hearing aids and follow up services for cochlear implants.

There is a shortage of certified interpreters, which results in a lack of qualified interpreters provided in health care settings. This issue is currently being exacerbated as testing for the national interpreter certification system is currently on hold.

There is a lack of means for Deaf Community Health Workers to charge for their services. The law that allows for these services to be billed to Medicare is already in place. However, the billing system favors community health workers who serve larger populations. Due to the small percentage of culturally deaf patients, current law prevents the vital services they provide from being reimbursed.

There are inadequate funds to cover the cost of interpreter access for volunteer-based support groups, including those for addiction, grief and other issues.

Latest health care and hearing aid updates

During the 2015 legislative session, MNCDHH advocated for additional funds to provide culturally affirmative mental health services in Greater Minnesota. The Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Division is pleased to announce that Therapeutic Services Agency, Inc. (TSA) is awarded with a state grant to provide mental health services to deaf, deafblind, and hard of hearing children and adolescents and their families living in Northeast and Northwest Minnesota. Beginning on December 17, 2015, TSA will establish services in the Northeast region (serving St. Louis, Aitkin, Carlton, Cook, Lake, Itasca, and Koochiching Counties). In July 2016, TSA will establish services in the Northwest region (serving Becker, Beltrami, Cass, Clay, Clearwater, Douglas, Grant, Hubbard, Kittson, Lake of the Woods, Mahnomen, Marshall, Norman, Otter Tail, Pennington, Polk, Red Lake, Roseau, Todd, Traverse, Wadena, and Wilkin Counties).

Opportunities for Mental Health Interpreters
Feb 10, 2016 - Opportunities for Mental Health Interpreters

Past work

Where and How to Get Hearing Aids: Kids Birth to 18
Get information about the Minnesota statute related to insurance companies providing coverage in Minnesota to pay for hearing aids for children birth through 18 who were born with or have an acquired hearing loss.

Where and How to Get Hearing Aids: Adults
Learn the laws related to purchasing hearing aids, and get tips for working with Audiologists and Hearing Instrument Dispensers.

MNCDHH and the Minnesota Department on Health worked together to establish standards for the practice of audiology (external link) and for hearing aid dispensers (external link). We also formalized a complaint process for patients to follow if they have a grievance against a provider.

MNCDHH and the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation jointly hosted a reception to honor Deaf Community Health Workers Anita Buel. Anita was the first deaf person to be awarded the 2008 Community Health Leaders Award from The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Of the thousands of people who were nominated nationally, Anita was selected as one of the final ten to receive this award and national recognition for her work and collaborations in reducing health disparities within the deaf community. The Commission provided administrative support and supported Anita through the complicated and many layered process. 

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