JEROME COUNTY -- A dispatch service in southern Idaho has made cuts to its language translation services for non-emergency calls.
Southern Idaho Regional Communications (SIRCOMM) dispatches for emergency services in Gooding, Jerome, Lincoln, and Twin Falls Counties, and serves 38 agencies.
When someone who does not speak English calls in, SIRCOMM uses a paid service called Language Line.
When we have a call in a language which we don't understand then we connect the calling party and our dispatcher to an interpreter and then they tell what their problem is or how we can help them, said SIRCOMM Director, John Moore.
Moore noticed they were spending $300-$400 more a month than normal on Language Line, and said they had to use interpreters on 60 calls last December. This June, they used interpreters on 266 calls. The translation service costs $2.89 a minute, so the increase was adding up.
Moore and the Dispatch Floor Manager, Julie Haycock, noticed jail inmates were using Language Line, and they also saw an increase in non-emergency calls being interpreted. Moore and Haycock made a change: Language Line would no longer be used by jail inmates or for non-emergency calls.
If they had situations that were life/safety we would use language line but for non-emergency type incidences we were going to have the people provide their own interpreter, said Moore.
SIRCOMM will still use Language Line for callers who don't speak English, to find out if the call is an emergency or a non-emergency, like a noise complaint or loose dog.
Charles Howell is the chair of the SIRCOMM Joint Powers Board and chair of the Jerome County Commission.
I believe it was like 45 percent of Jerome County speak Spanish, said Howell.
He said many Spanish-speakers he meets have someone in their family who is bilingual and could translate for them.
The majority of them speak both languages, Howell said. However you obviously see a lot of the families, the parents don't speak English but the children do.
Howell asked law enforcement in Jerome County and they told him it would not be a big deal as long as they kept using Language Line for emergencies.
It doesn't appear like it's that big of an issue, specifically because we are aiming it at non-emergency calls and that's the key, he said. If the Language Line is still used to determine whether it's an emergency call or non-emergency call, that's the key.
SIRCOMM says if you truly have no recourse and no one to help you translate, they will still use Language Line to address your issue.
SIRCOMM instituted this change in the middle of October, and the bill for October doesn't come out until November, so they do not know yet if they change has made a difference.