ALBANY – Five years after New York Lawyers for the Public Interest filed a civil rights complaint with then-Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to challenge the language barriers many people faced in pharmacies, the Legislature has included a provision in the 2012-13 budget requiring chain and mail-order pharmacies across New York to provide translation and interpretation services for patients with limited English.
The measure, which is part of a package of budget bills passed before the April 1 start of the next fiscal year, also directs the state departments of education and health to develop requirements to standardize medication labels so they are easier to read and understand.
NYLPI and Make the Road New York, which advocates for the immigrant community, lodged a civil rights complaint in 2007 that resulted in an investigation by Cuomo and a settlement with seven of the largest chain pharmacies in the state: Costco, CVS, Duane Reade, Rite Aid, Target, Walmart and A&P Pharmacy.
The new provision, included by now-Governor Cuomo in his executive budget, was approved by the Legislature last week and ensures that chain and mail-order pharmacies not included in the settlement agreements provide language assistance services.
Jennifer Swayne, health justice staff attorney with NYLPI, said the state’s action “demonstrates the commitment to make the health and well-being of people of color, immigrants, seniors and many others across the state of New York a top priority.”
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