County meeting with health board turnsto illegal immigration

Published 7:03 pm Wednesday, April 23, 2008

By Staff
Changes to contract with state proposed
Staff Writer
The focus of a campaign to rid Beaufort County of illegal immigrants was once again placed on the Beaufort County Health Department Monday night.
Beaufort County Commissioner Hood Richardson called for tallying the number of illegal immigrants are served at the health department by counting the number of patients served who have Spanish surnames. The call came during a joint meeting of commissioner with the Beaufort County Board of Health to discuss funding health-department programs with local tax dollars.
Richardson wants a count of Hispanics specifically accessing child-care, WIC and prenatal services from the health department. WIC is an acronym for a federally funded, mandated nutrition program for women, infants and children.
The meeting’s purpose was to consider a consolidated agreement between the county health department and the state. The agreement must be approved each year by the local health board before state funding will be released for the upcoming fiscal year beginning July 1.
Richardson and Commissioner Stan Deatherage have led a campaign to exempt illegal immigrants from accessing health-department services at the expense of county taxpayers. Richardson requested that County Attorney Billy Mayo and County Manager Paul Spruill look into requesting several edits to the health department’s consolidated agreement. At least one of those edits Richardson framed not only to ensure illegal immigrants do not receive county-subsidized health care, but that they pay to receive medical treatment at the health department.
Richardson took exception with a provision of the contract regarding the availability of interpreters for clients with “limited English proficiency.”
Richardson said the wording of the contract banned the county from charging only those clients that speak little English, but may allow for charging clients who speak no English at all. He requested that Mayo and Spruill make a list of all services that are funded entirely by the county and research the legality of charging non-English speakers for the use of an interpreter to receive those services.
Spruill said there were few, if any, services offered by the health department that do not received state or federal funding.
Richardson said “you’re going to know” whether or not a client can speak English.
Commissioner Al Klemm predicted that state agencies would pan the idea based on the Civil Rights Act which has been waved in front of the board previously for other moves to counter illegal immigration.
Commissioners will take up the issue of requesting edits to the contract at their regular May meeting.