Alabama's Mental Health Interpreter Training project has been a quarter of a century in the making. It started as a “what if” rhetorical question that Steve Hamerdinger, then director of the now defunct Bureau of Deaf Services at the Missouri Department of Mental Health, asked at a staff meeting in 1995. To Wayne Elrod and Jay Wolfe it wasn’t rhetorical; it was a practical and realistic question. Elrod, who was a staff interpreter Deaf Services and Wolfe, who was with the Missouri Commission for the Deaf, took the idea and developed a one day training that became the forerunner of today's MHIT. That early effort established some characteristics that have become hallmarks of MHIT. There was considerable focus, even back then, on knowledge vs. signing skill, per se. The underlying principle then, as now, was that interpreters working in mental health settings had to be very competent general interpreters before they approach a highly specialized area like mental health. MHIT would never be about “how do you sign…” It would be about helping interpreters broaden their knowledge of mental illness and treatment so that they would be able to make more effective interpretations. [MORE]
Alabama Mental Health Interpreter Project derives its authority from two places: The Bailey vs. Sawyer lawsuit settlement, and Chapter 580/3/24 of the Administrative Code of Alabama. You can find links to both documents below.
Qualified Mental Health Interpreter Code
Neil Glickman says it best:
Because deaf people are so routinely left out of conversations and the sharing of information, they develop an exquisite sensitivity to communication matters. When they are in a position to improve service delivery in programs, they almost always focus first on how to improve the communication environment for deaf people.
From: Preparing Deaf and Hearing Persons with Language and Learning Challenges for CBT: Pre-Therapy Workbook. In Press, Routledge, New York