First, Do No Harm: Providing Meaningful Access to Healthcare for Limited English Proficient Patients in Rural Georgia

Georgia is the largest state east of the Mississippi River with 159 counties, but 35 percent of its population is centered in the five major counties in metropolitan Atlanta. Georgia Legal Services Program (GLSP) “is a non-profit law firm offering legal services to Georgians with low incomes who live in the 154 counties outside Metro Atlanta. We handle cases involving domestic violence, housing problems, access to healthcare, elder law, and school problems, among others. We advocate for the rights of our clients to be safe from violence, to have decent affordable housing, to get needed health care, to have decent schools for their children, and to rely on society’s safety net when they are in need. GLSP helps clients to overcome barriers to opportunities out of poverty, and delivers on our nation’s promise of justice for all.”2

In 2003, GLSP launched its Latino Outreach and Education Initiative (LOEI) to address the socio-cultural and language barriers that prevent full access to justice and opportunities out of poverty for Latinos with low incomes.3 Ten years later, our advocacy has assisted over 16,000 Latino individuals and families in having opportunities for a better way of life. The most common legal issues faced by our Latino clients include denial/termination of public benefits (e.g., Medicaid), domestic violence, divorce, and name changes/birth certificate corrections. Limited English proficiency often plays an integral role in the exacerbation of these issues. An individual who is “Limited English proficient” (LEP) is someone who does not speak English as their primary language and who has a limited ability to read, speak, write, or understand English.4 The term “LEP” includes individuals who are deaf and communicate using American Sign Language (ASL) or other recognized form of sign language.

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