Counseling, crisis and support services available regardless of language barriers

Family Service of Roanoke Valley and community partners recognize the specific challenges faced by refugees and other Limited English Proficiency persons in our community. To better serve this growing population in the Roanoke Valley, they today announced a collaborative project to address the need for qualified, appropriate and culturally sensitive interpreter services for victims of crime—Health and Wellness Interpreters of the Roanoke Valley.

“We are making a commitment to not let any victim of crime feel isolated or hopeless because they are not able to access services in their primary language,” Family Service President and CEO Sharon Thacker said.

The program will serve any victim of crime—physical assault or bullying, financial fraud, child abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault, robbery, or any other type of crime—for whom language is a limitation.

Four primary partners include Family Service of Roanoke Valley,Salvation Army’s Turning Point, TAP Domestic Violence Services and Sexual Assault Response and Awareness (SARA, Inc)

. Health and Wellness Interpreters of the Roanoke Valley will focus on giving people with limited English proficiency access to counseling, support services, advocacy, crisis intervention and more.

Refugees, immigrants and other Limited English Proficiency/deaf persons need affordable and accessible interpreter services, specifically in-person interpreter services by qualified and certified interpreters trained in mental health. Layering interpreter services into existing direct services allows victims of crime to get the help they need without having to deal with the added challenge of not being able to speak the language.

Funding for the program is made available through the Department of Criminal Justice Services Victims of Crime Act. The Roanoke Valley will receive over $280,000 in the next 12 months, with additional funding available in coming years.

City of Roanoke Vice Mayor Anita Price joined Thacker and others to make an announcement about the new program on Tuesday, November 22 during National Family Week.

See the media coverage of the announcement on:


The Roanoke Times



“The City of Roanoke is proud to partner with our local non-profits to give people who live and work in this beautiful Valley the tools they need to succeed,” Price said. “Roanoke is a refugee resettlement community with a diverse population, and there are growing numbers of people whose primary language is not English. These neighbors will be better able to live, work and play in our Valley if they can deal with the trauma and hopelessness associated with extremely difficult life circumstances.”

As a refugee resettlement community, the Roanoke Valley is a melting pot of various cultures and nationalities, representing over 100 spoken languages. This diversity is an incredible asset to our community, and understandably, also represents challenges for health and human services providers responding to the needs of clients with Limited English Proficiency (LEP). Over 3,800 people were identified as not being proficient in English in the 2016 County Health Rankings.  The current system relies on expensive language lines, and live interpreters provided by insurance companies which can’t be accessed in a timely fashion, and don’t adequately meet the needs of clients. These resources become virtually non-existent for those that are uninsured or lack behavioral healthcare coverage.

Health and Wellness Interpreters of the Roanoke Valley will make these services available to LEP/deaf victims of crime at no cost, and in the most appropriate and culturally sensitive manner possible.

The City of Roanoke is partnering to identify and refer victims of crime with language limitations to the new centralized resource. Many organizations have also lined up to help bring no-cost interpreter services to people who need it—the Mental Health Refugee Council, United Way of Roanoke Valley, Roanoke City Public Schools, Roanoke City Department of Social Services, Blue Ridge Literacy, Commonwealth’s Attorney Victim/Witness, Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital Emergency Department and Mental Health America.

Funds are included for each primary partner agency to provide interpreter services at no cost to the crime victim. There are also funds to give victims of crime access to interpreter services so they may get connected with other needed services not provided by the four primary partners.

Health and Wellness Interpreters of the Roanoke Valley will also conduct community outreach events and trauma-informed trainings. The purpose of these events will be to educate service providers, refugee and immigrant communities, limited English proficiency or deaf persons, and the greater community on how to identify and access services.

For more information, please call 540-563-5316 x3014