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Know Your Rights
Source: Bushwick Courier
Subject: Language Access
Type: Media Coverage

Group: Drug Stores Practice Discrimination – Call goes out for More Translation Services

activists from Make the Road New York added new complainants to join a
pending civil rights complaint with the New York State Attorney General’s
Office against language discrimination at pharmacies throughout Brooklyn.

"Our approach is to find one sweeping resolution that
will affect all pharmacies in the area to provide more translation services to
ensure the quality of care and that patients stay healthy," said Theo Oshiro, a health advocate with MRNY.
"Pharmacy staff should be speaking with patients in a language they can

Make the Road, New York Lawyers for the Public
Interest, and the New York Immigration Coalition filed its original complaint,
which is not a lawsuit, with the Attorney General’s Office on July 26, 2007, on
behalf of five limited English proficient New Yorkers who experienced
discrimination at four pharmacies. According to the 2000 Census, one out of
every four New Yorkers do not speak English and 47 percent of all New York City households
speak a language other than English at home.

complaint seeks to enforce the rights those who are limited English proficient
who have been denied mandated translation and interpretation services by
pharmacy staff and are put at risk by medicines with English-only instructions.
The number of pharmacies on that list health activists accuse of violating
civil rights law has grown to 25 while eight new complainants were added to the
ongoing civil rights complaint that MRNY members hand delivered to the
Attorney General’s office.

aren’t getting translated labels in the community and they might go home with
the wrong medication," Oshiro said. "We want to thank the
Attorney General for listening to us we hope he finds a speedy resolution to
this problem."

A number of
pharmacies in Brooklyn have made the list, including the CVS Pharmacy on 6502
18th Avenue, Rite Aid Pharmacy on 355 Knickerbocker Avenue, Kraupner Pharmacy
on 457 Knickerbocker Avenue, Woodhull Prescription Center on 751 Flushing
Avenue, Gardner Pharmacy on 371 Broadway Avenue, St. Jude’s Pharmacy and
Surgical Supply Store on 121 St. Nicholas Avenue, and Duane Reade Pharmacy on
749 Broadway Avenue. Each of the pharmacies on the list has a similar set of
alleged statutory violations including a failure to provide skilled
interpretative services for LEP individuals and written and oral translation
for medication labels.

"In the
Civil Rights Law of 1964, language is a proxy for national origin," said Nisha
Agarwal, an attorney with the NYLPI. "Labels must be clearly understandable for
patients of these pharmacies."

Irania Sanchez, a MRNY member who
joined the complaint
went to a Rite Aid in Queens to fill a
prescription for her diabetes medication, but the pharmacy staff told her to
find a translator at home.

patients have to rely on children or grandchildren to translate their
medications, putting their relatives in an uncomfortable position and changing
the family dynamics.

"I take
many medications and I usually have to ask my granddaughter who is ten years
old to translate my medications," said Maria
Sanchez, a Make the Road member and complainant
. "This is too much
responsibility for a young child and we need a solution."

patients, such as Aida Torres, a Make
the Road member
, often withhold taking medication prescribed by their
doctor because no one at their pharmacy was able to translate the instructions.

"I went
home very confused because I didn’t understand the dosage or effects of the
medication," Torres said. "Instead
of taking the medication, I just took Tylenol and that only alleviated the pain
a little bit."

with the New York State Attorney General’s Office took the updated complaint
from Make the Road but were not willing to comment about particular details
surrounding the pharmacies listed on the complaint.

Attorney General is grateful to Make the Road for their commitment to this issue
and for working with us to ensure the rights of all New Yorkers," said Matt
Wing, a spokesman with the Attorney General.

Burride, executive director of the New York State Board of Pharmacies, which
represents licensed professionals and independent owners, said that those
pharmacies have staff that speak multiple languages or the language from the
demographics of the neighborhood. Others have software to print out labels so
that one set that is English and another set that is Spanish, Russian or other

"What you
have in the city is a number of chains coming in now that may not have hired
staff or gotten the demographics down on their base. Hopefully they will start
moving in that way," said Burride.

spokesperson Mike DeAngelis, the pharmacy offers a program of language
interpretation services to supplement the bi-lingual abilities of the store
personnel in assisting pharmacy customers who speak a language other than
English, and all stores have access to telephonic language interpretation
services to provide prescription drug counseling to pharmacy customers who are
not proficient in English for over 150 languages.