County Supervisors Balk at Use of Spanish Word in Health Promotion

In government and politics, language can be a tricky thing.

Especially when it’s a foreign language in Orange County.

Like Spanish.

This week, county Supervisor John Moorlach held up more than $1.5 million in funding for a mental health services contract because the nonprofit that administers the service uses a Spanish word, promotora, instead of “health care worker.”

“Does it have to be called promotora?” asked Moorlach.

That piqued the interest of Supervisor Shawn Nelson, who wondered aloud why the program uses a Spanish name if it serves a countywide population. Nelson then also questioned why Latino is used in the name of the nonprofit.

Nelson called the name “ridiculous” and added that “unless this agency wants to rename itself, I have no interest in supporting this kind of approach.”

Latino Health Access is a nonprofit offering health access programming throughout Orange County’s central core, specializing in reaching populations that health care workers have had problems reaching.

The Promotora program is regarded as a model in health care circles. It recruits trusted and respected members within isolated communities to serve as community health workers or, in Spanish, promotoras.

While Chairman Bill Campbell said he wasn’t focused on language, the word did trigger the interest of Supervisor Pat Bates. She wondered aloud whether her constituents in the canyon areas would be amenable to a program that had Spanish titles.

“I’m not sure people will be willing to come forward,” Bates said.

Bates moved to delay in the contract, saying “I’d like to understand it better.”

That multicultural twist appeared to put supervisors in an odd mood.

When the next Health Care Agency item came up — a $1-million contract for outreach to the Vietnamese Community — the entire board went silent. There wasn’t even a second to Campbell’s motion to move the item forward.