SNF, feds resolve dispute over sign language interpreter access

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A Pennsylvania nursing home has reached a resolution with federal officials in a dispute over the facility's ability to provide a sign language interpreter for a prospective resident.

An admissions representative for Briarleaf Nursing and Convalescent, Inc., in Doylestown, PA, allegedly told the son of a prospective resident who requires a sign language interpreter at all times that such an interpreter was not in the facility's budget. In a follow-up call, Briarleaf's administrator told the son that the facility would look into the availability of sign language interpreter services.

The prospective resident died at a hospital before she could be moved into a skilled nursing facility. Her son bought a complaint against Briarleaf, claiming its lack of sign language interpretation services violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In a settlement agreement announced Wednesday, Briarleaf agreed to provide deaf or hard of hearing residents with aids and services, including interpreters, as well as assess residents' communication needs during the admissions process. The facility must also keep records of interpreter requests, provide staff training, contract with an interpreter service, and publish a policy on effective communication.

Briarleaf will be required to provide a written report to the United States Attorney's office each year on its compliance status.

Briarleaf did not admit liability as part of the settlement. A call for comment to the facility's administrator was not returned by press time Thursday.