WCMS Interpreter Network Launches SPEAK-WNC

Asheville, NC – Western Carolina Medical Society Foundation (WCMS) and the WCMS Interpreter Network (WIN) are pleased to announce the Strategies to Promote Equitable Access to and Knowledge of Language Services in WNC (SPEAK-WNC) project. This initiative will work towards the elimination of health disparities among racial and ethnic minority populations in Western North Carolina by increasing the access of people with Limited English Proficiency (LEP) and Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing individuals to language services in medical settings. This work is supported by a grant from the US Department of Human Services’ Office of Minority Health (OMH).“This is an opportunity to make real change in the health disparities in LEP and Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing people in our region,” says Mariela Solano, Director of Health Access and Equity Programs at WCMS and project director for this grant initiative. “We are grateful to have the support of OMH as we undertake this project.”

WIN was started in 2005 to address disparities in care for limited English proficient and Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing people. Access to professional medical interpreters ensures quality communication and care for all patients. WIN provides interpretive services throughout the 16 westernmost counties in North Carolina. Project Access® participants and their providers receive interpreter services pro bono. This year through the end of August WIN scheduled 3,156 appointments in 29 languages.

This grant will support the creation and delivery of an education and advocacy campaign for providers, patients, WCMS Foundation members, CBOs, and legislators to raise awareness of the importance and benefit of language services for LEP and Deaf and Hard of Hearing persons making healthcare decisions. WIN will expand into in new service areas, at other types of medical providers, and in community organizations and local businesses. Three WIN staff members will be trained and licensed to conduct interpreter trainings in order to increase the availability of qualified interpreters in WNC.

This project is supported by the Office of Minority Health of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $375,000 with 100% funded by OMH. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement by OMH or the U.S. Government. For more information, please visit https://www.mywcms.org/philanthropy/wcms-interpreter-network. WIN is one of 11 recipients of OMH’s Promoting Equitable Access to Language Services in Health and Human Services initiative.

“We know that people with limited English proficiency too often face discrimination when seeking health care and human services,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “The risk of misinformation, the wrong type of care, or foregoing care altogether is high when language barriers persist. We’re putting policy into action to eliminate barriers to equitable care and leave no one behind.”

The Western Carolina Medical Society’s mission is to advocate for healthy communities, increase access to affordable healthcare, fight health inequities, and promote wellness in WNC. Since 1885, WCMS has been highly respected for its leadership and innovation in addressing issues of access to affordable health care, disparities in health, and wellness promotion. Throughout its history, WCMS has been at the forefront of working collaboratively with area organizations to address the health challenges facing our community’s residents.

For more information about the Western Carolina Medical Society or the WCMS Interpreter Network contact Amy Barcomb, Director of Development at 828-274-2267 or amy@mywcms.org.