Deaf/Hard of Hearing community partnership helps bring additional access, resources to FindHelpNow website
One of the biggest obstacles for individuals struggling with substance misuse is access to treatment. Depending on the individual, access can mean more than finding an open bed in a substance use disorder (SUD) treatment facility.
For those who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing, or DeafBlind, there is often a lack of understanding between those with and without hearing loss and, many times, providers don’t grasp what is truly involved in providing culturally affirmative and linguistically accessible treatment.
However, thanks to a partnership between near-real-time substance use disorder treatment locator FindHelpNowKY.org and the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services program at the Kentucky Division for Behavioral Health, Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities (DBHDID), the website now offers information in American Sign Language (ASL) and has resources specifically created for the diverse linguistic community.
“Making the FindHelpNowKY.org accessible and navigable to Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals with SUDs and to all communities of need is of high priority to the FindHelpNowKY.org team,” said Terry Bunn, PhD, Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center (KIPRC) Director.
The partnership started when Michelle Niehaus, Program Administrator for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services at DBHDID, reached out to Danita Coulter and the FindHelpNowKY team.
Niehaus said input from the Eyes on Hope task force, a community collaboration between individuals who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing, or DeafBlind and treatment and recovery service providers, identified access to information as a priority.
“One of the biggest concerns the group has is that many people with hearing loss do not know where to go to access treatment,” she said.
Niehaus said Coulter worked as a liaison between the two organizations and explained how the FindHelpNowKY.org system works and the goals of the treatment facility locator platform.
Through the partnership, enhancements were created to the Population Served and Languages Supported sections on the administrative side of FindHelpNowKY.org to add Deaf or Hard of Hearing as a population and ASL as a language option.
Concurrently, Coulter and Niehaus presented to various provider groups to offer education on language access requirements and barriers experienced by the community.
“The process reinforced that it is essential to work with your stakeholders instead of work for them,” said Coulter, the Educational Services Assistant Senior for FindHelpNowKY.org. “While most are interested in ensuring equity, we have to move beyond conversations and begin working alongside those individuals and groups we hope to assist with removing barriers to access.”
The website now shows the ASL icon for facilities that offer on-site interpreters and added professional closed captioning to the current FindHelpNowKY.org marketing videos on its YouTube channel.
In addition, the FindHelpNowKY team and DBHDID created or adapted multiple resources to make them more readable for and relevant to the population.
“FindHelpNowKY resources offer a model of how to create content with a community for a community and to work toward continuous quality improvement,” said Niehaus on how vital it was to get Deaf/Hard of Hearing resources on the site. “Not only can individuals who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing, or DeafBlind use the website, so can their loved ones, organizations serving the community, and providers who want to learn more. We need to be creative and flexible when showing people that help IS available and how they can find it.
“The website’s visibility also provided vital connections to providers so that they are more prepared to recognize and address attitudinal and access barriers.”
CREATING A VIDEO IN ASL
Since information is best delivered in a person’s primary language, the partnership led to the creation of a video in ASL that emphasizes how to use the website. Using the perspective of concerned friends, the video is done in ASL with voiceover and professional captions.
The video was a partnership between KIPRC—where FindHelpNowKY is based—DBHDID, and Mangiardi Film to craft a script and video through the Deaf perspective.
“It was a truly collaborative process where we took thoughtful, measured steps to make sure we had a product that reflected the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community’s needs,” Niehaus said.
Adrean Mangiardi, owner and operator of Mangiardi Films, said working on the video project was important to him, especially as a Deaf man who knows firsthand how important accessibility and connecting the community with available resources are.
“At Mangiardi Films, we are extremely proud to be a part of this project,” he said. “We enjoyed the opportunity to work with the FindHelpNowKY team on this project, and we sincerely hope that the video we created is helpful to our community and offers understanding and ease of use to those who watch it.”
Mangiardi said videos that include accessibility features, such as different types of sign languages, closed captioning, and visual description, are beneficial for Deaf, DeafBlind, and Hard of Hearing viewers.
The video is available on FindHelpNowKY.org and the FindHelpNowKY YouTube channel and has been linked to additional partner sites such as the Hearing Loss Association of America.
A CHAMPION FOR THE DEAF/HARD OF HEARING
Each year, DBHDID recognizes Champions in Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services. In 2021, Coulter and KIPRC were honored.
“Danita showed true leadership in how she helped us address what could be done to make the FindHelpNowKY site more accessible and worked within her system to get it done,” Niehaus said of the honors. “The whole team contributed to the efforts to add interpreting icons, create resource pages, ensure professional captioning on existing videos, and create the new video in ASL with voiceover and captions. Danita and the KIPRC team were a natural pick for their willingness, passion, and follow-through in a challenging year.”
Coulter said the honor was significant to her as it showed that the FindHelpNowKY team at KIPRC is interested in doing the work it takes to ensure access to all.
“We listen to our stakeholders and end users, which is essential when at the forefront of such a large undertaking,” she said. “We know that substance use disorder affects everyone. The substance use disorder treatment locator must reflect the community.
“I felt honored to serve as lead on this project and work with great partners at the Department for Behavioral Health.”
FEEDBACK IS ESSENTIAL
Coulter said FindHelpNowKY’s partnership with the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community has made the team rethink what other communities might be underserved or need more assistance.
“Our team encourages feedback from our stakeholders,” she said. “However, knowing what needs remain unmet can be challenging if we have not identified the target audience.”
Coulter said the FindHelpNowKY team welcomes all feedback and encourages stakeholders to take the time to review the website and contact the team with any questions or to request a presentation or in-service training or to partner in an event.
If interested in participating in the Eyes on Hope task force, contact Michelle.Niehaus@ky.gov.
FindHelpNowKY.org was created by the University of Kentucky College of Public Health’s Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center, a bona fide agent for the Kentucky Department for Public Health, in partnership with the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, the Kentucky Department for Behavioral Health, Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities, and the KY HELP Statewide Call Center.
The goal of FindHelpNowKY is to provide a near-real-time listing of openings at substance use disorder treatment facilities across Kentucky. The user-friendly and easy-to-understand online referral-based intervention tool can improve clinical workflow and increase timely access to substance use disorder treatment and information.