Increase of Hispanic Population in Arkansas Will Require More Bilingual Personnel, Medical Services, Report Finds
Hispanics will become the largest minority group in Arkansas by 2020, which will require the hiring and training of more bilingual medical personnel, according to a report released on Tuesday, the Northwest Arkansas Morning News reports (Moritz, Northwest Arkansas Morning News, 5/13).
The 240-page report, which was presented to state House and Senate lawmakers at a joint meeting, was written by Ty Borders -- an associate professor of health policy, and management and epidemiology at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences College of Public Health. Sen. Shane Broadway (D) commissioned the study in 2005 in an effort to encourage lawmakers to prepare the state's agencies and infrastructure for shifts in demographics (Park, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 5/14).
Using 2005 U.S. Census Bureau data, the report found that the number of Hispanics is expected to nearly triple from 86,866 in 2000 to 240,404 in 2020. The state's overall population is expected to reach 3.58 million in 2020, up from 6.7 million in 2000 and 2.83 million in 2007. The influx of people would put more demand on health care services and increase the number of people in the state with diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and obesity, according to the Democrat-Gazette. Social services would need to be expanded to meet a growing elderly population, and more bilingual workers would be needed to address the increase of Hispanics, according to the report. The department of Human Services, in particular, will need to increase its Spanish-speaking personnel (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 5/14).
Broadway said that he might file legislation next year that would require agencies to develop plans to address the demographic changes. State Sen. Percy Malone (D) said, "Everything is going to cost money." State Rep. Ed Garner (R) said, "There is no way that we will continue to extend services to everybody, including [undocumented immigrants], with the resources that we have now" (Northwest Arkansas Morning News, 5/13).
The report is available online (.pdf).