Written by Carol Fouke-Mpoyo
United Church of Christ Disaster Ministries has approved a $25,000 grant to support the work of the Genesee County Hispanic Latino Collaborative (GCHLC) in Flint, Mich., to serve Spanish-speaking households affected by the water crisis.
Woodside Church UCC in Flint is providing the collaborative with space long term as it responds to the needs of an under-served and overlooked population.
The collaborative requested the funding to provide Spanish-English interpretation during lead testing and appointments with health providers and monitors.
Flint's water crisis began in April 2014 when the city switched its water source from the Detroit River to the Flint River with no anti-corrosive treatment. In short order, residents started complaining about the water's color and smell. A boil water advisory was issued in August, and lead was detected in the water in February 2015, but it was December 2015 before a state of emergency was declared in Flint, a city of nearly 100,000.
Advocates, including the United Church of Christ, just won the approval of Congress for $170 million to provide expanded health services and to replace lead pipes and make other water infrastructure improvements - work that will take years. Residents are still relying on bottled water for consumption and bathing.
Although the Genesee County Hispanic Latino Collaborative has been able to provide the Hispanic community with some medical interpretation support, there are still many instances where families and individuals arrive at a medical appointment without an interpreter, and the medical provider is unable to provide one, said GCHLC’s San Juana ("Juani") Olivares.
This is despite the mandate that federally funded medical facilities provide interpretation services. Interpretation is not always available, even by phone, and even when it is, there have been problems with connectivity and miscommunication, Olivares said.
"This is not a new problem, but the Flint water crisis has compounded the urgency for medical interpretation needs as otherwise healthy individuals have had their health compromised.
"The Flint water crisis is a man-made disaster that has critically affected the people living in the city ofFlint," Olivares said. "The water is still contaminated, with no clear end in sight. Those with lead poisoning, especially the children, will continue to have social and medical needs for the rest of their lives."