Editor’s note: This is a follow-up from a January 2020 article.
Many of you were willing to write letters of concern to James Hereford, CEO of M Fairview Health, about your concerns regarding the planned closing of the Minnesota Substance Use Disorder Program for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Individuals. I would like to request, that any of you who did write letters and mail them to Mr. Hereford, that if willing, you would also send your letter via email to Chris Hickman, System Director, Behavioral Health and System Clinical Integration, M Fairview Health. The email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Additionally, I wanted to update you on the status of our efforts to keep the Minnesota Substance Use Disorder Program for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Individuals open. We recently met with Chris Hickman, system director, Behavioral Health and System Clinical Integration and Patty Moore, manager of Outpatient Behavioral Clinics to discuss concerns about the plan to close the program on February 10. The primary issue of concern continues to be trying to admit deaf individuals who have Medicare and no additional private insurance and are not Medicaid eligible. Chris and Patty indicated that they have tried to figure out how to get around this issue and feel it is a federal problem that needs to be resolved. If the Medicare issue could be solved, the program would be able to continue because that is the bulk of the clients being served. 1/3 of the clients that come into the program are from Minnesota and the remainder are from across the United States.
Currently, M Fairview Health still intends to close the program on February 10. The medical center still plans to continue to admit deaf and hard of hearing individuals, but they would go into the hearing program (Lodging Plus) and be provided interpreters.
During the meeting we talked about how research shows that the use of interpreters when providing clinical services to deaf and hard of hearing individuals is much less effective than direct care from professionals fluent in ASL. We stressed to them how unique the deaf program is and how essential it is to have a specialized treatment program when providing accessible and equitable treatment.
We tried to educate Chris and Patty on the challenges for deaf and hard of hearing clients who are placed in hearing groups which may have up to 14 or more people in them. We explained that this can be very fast paced and leave deaf and hard of hearing people feeling lost, isolated and unsupported when they don’t have peers that share their language and culture. We talked about how this is going backwards in time, and how unethical it is.
Although unwilling to discuss keeping the deaf program separate at this time, Chris was willing to discuss ways we could enhance the services for deaf and hard of hearing individuals who would be placed in the hearing program to better accommodate, serve and provide equal access under ADA.
We will be having some community meetings to discuss next steps and how to deal with this situation. We appreciate your ongoing support and help in keeping this issue in the public eye. We have more than 6,200 signatures on the petition and hope you will continue to help us spread the word. To add your signature and comments to the petition, you can go to: http://chng.it/xQ6Lt2kd