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Know Your Rights
Source: The Epoch Times
Subject: Language Access
Type: Media Coverage

Gotbaum, Gioia Call for Prescription Language Accessibility

Advocate Betsy Gotbaum and councilmember Eric Gioia, along with
Make the Road New York, called for city pharmacies to provide language assistance
for New Yorkers with Limited English Proficiency (LEP).


introduced legislation in October of this year known as the Language Access in
Pharmacies Act of 2008 (LAPA), which will require city pharmacies to post signs
indicating that individuals who speak limited or no English have a right to
free, accessible language assistance and translation services when filling


New York has more than 1.8 million
residents with LEP, and Gotbaum and her colleagues say they are at risk of
taking medications without a clear understanding of the directions or risks
associated with their use.

“This is
not rocket science” said Gotbaum, “Clearly understanding a prescription you are
given is a basic right, yet pharmacies all around the city are allowing New
Yorkers to take home medications with instructions they can’t understand”


are currently not required to provide translation services for their customers.
This can be dangerous for the immigrant population. Upon enactment, Gotbaum’s
law will take effect immediately for any pharmacy that has five or more
locations. It will become effective in three years for pharmacies that have
two-to-four locations, and effective in four years for pharmacies with only one


A 2006 study of language access in NYC pharmacies conducted by the New
York Academy of Medicine found that 88% of pharmacies encountered LEP patients
on a daily basis. However, 50% of the pharmacists surveyed never translated
prescription labels or translated less than once a week, despite the clear need
for this service.


ability to understand one’s medication is a basic right that all New Yorkers
should enjoy – regardless of what language you speak. English only health
information doesn’t live up to the inclusive spirit of New York, and sets up a dangerous and
unnecessary barrier for thousands of hard working New Yorkers who take
prescription medication” said Councilmember Gioia


In 2007, Make the Road New York filed a complaint about the lack of translation services
at city pharmacies with the State Attorney General’s Office. In November, 2008,
Attorney General Andrew Cuomo announced that two of the largest pharmacy chains
in the United States – CVS
and Rite Aid – have entered into agreements with his office to provide New York customers with
prescription medication instructions in their primary language. However,
Make the Road New York estimated that over 75% of New York City pharmacies are unaffected by
this agreement.