New program brings more services to SLV


ALAMOSA — New opportunities for the blind/deaf community of the San Luis Valley could be coming soon. The Colorado Department of Human Services is implementing the Rural Interpreting Services Pilot Project (RISP).

This program was established through the Colorado General Assembly through the Joint Budget Committee. The committee recognized that there was a need in rural areas for sign language interpreters. Because of this shortage, there have been barriers of communication for individuals who may be deaf, hard of hearing of deafblind.

The result was the legislature established RISP. The project is set to have a two-year life span with $700,000 worth of funding for each year. The goal of the program is to provide a “culturally affirmative” experience for those who need the services.

The program is essentially a request process in order to obtain sign language interpreters where they may be needed in rural areas. Rural is defined as anywhere in Colorado outside the Front Range. The requests can be made for medical, legal, employment, and meeting/event purposes. The legal portion is only for the state and county municipal court /law enforcement systems as well as attorney-client meetings. Thus far, the program has had 45 requests. Many of them have come from Alamosa.

Following a Friday presentation on the project, Timothy Chevalier, Ed.D. and Trish Leakey of CDHS took questions and heard about needs and concerns from the audience. The common theme from the discussion seemed to be lack of interpreters as well as locational challenges. The CDHS expressed that they will do what they can to assist with those challenges. The RISP program is in the beginning stages and hopes to grow. The CDHS welcomes input from rural Colorado regarding RISP.