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Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services in Behavioral Health and Developmental Services

OCLC equity

The DBHDS Office of Cultural & Linguistic Competence (OCLC) leads efforts to provide improved services to diverse and underserved individuals and works toward eliminating the disparities within the state’s mental health, intellectual disability and substance-use disorder system. 

New to cultural competence?  Start out by reading Important Definitions


  • 2015 CLAS ACADEMY CATALOG- To best leverage resources, the OCLC focuses training efforts the implementation of culturally and linguistically appropriate practices, policies, and procedures. Organizations that are interested in longer term planning efforts may arrange academy training as a part of a larger developmental effort. The CLAS Academy Catalog also outlines other training that is delivered annually or is sponsored by the OCLC. 
  • Virginia Refugee Mental Health ESL Module - In partnership with Old Dominion University, the Initiative has developed a 1 hour ESL module designed to introduce English language learners to concepts of mental health and wellness in English. The module is free for utilization by any ESL program. 
  • Planning language access services in your organization? - Don't wait til you have a crisis in your organization to plan language services.  With planning, training, and policies in place, you can be prepared to provide high quality, efficient, affordable, and effective services to any individual who walks through your door; regardless of the language they speak.  Read more about language access planning and don't assume it is an issue that your staff will never have to face.  


Read about the OBHE @ SAMHSA and the latest tool for organizational assessment.

SAMHSA's OBHE collaborated with the Hopkins Center for Health Disparities Solutions to adapt an organizational cultural competence self-assessment tool for behavioral health, the Behavioral Health and Social Services 360 (BHSS360), that measures diversity in terms of age, race, ethnicity, nationality, language, religion/spirituality, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, and military status. The tool is fully aligned with the National CLAS Standards and provides a 360-degree view from the perspective of administrators, clinicians/providers, administrative/clerical staff, and clients. The tool was developed for use in a continuous quality improvement process to assist organizations and communities in several organizational assessment activities. Read to full article for all the details and how you might access the tool.

what is clc

The definition offered by Cross, in 1989 has provided a lasting foundation for the field and is viewed as universally applicable across multiple systems.

“Cultural competence is a set of congruent behaviors, attitudes, and policies that come together in a system, agency or among professionals and enable that system, agency or those professions to work effectively in cross-cultural situations.
The word culture is used because it implies the integrated pattern of human behavior that includes thoughts, communications, actions, customs, beliefs, values and institutions of a racial, ethnic, religious or social group. The word competence is used because it implies having the capacity to function effectively. 

What makes ling comp

The National Center for Cultural Competence developed a definition that provides a foundation for determining linguistic competence in health care, mental health and other human service delivery systems. It reminds providers that linguistic competence encompasses a broad spectrum of services and individuals: 

The capacity of an organization and its personnel to communicate effectively, and convey information in a manner that is easily understood by diverse audiences including persons of limited English proficiency, those who have low literacy skills or are not literate, individuals with disabilities, and those who are deaf or hard of hearing. Linguistic competency requires organizational and provider capacity to respond effectively to the health and mental health literacy needs of populations served. The organization must have policy, structures, practices, procedures, and dedicated resources to support this capacity.

Goode & Jones (modified 2009). National Center for Cultural Competence, Georgetown University Center for Child & Human Development

Diversity Wheel

The integrated pattern of thoughts, communications, actions, customs, beliefs, values, and institutions associated, wholly or partially, with racial, ethnic, or linguistic groups as well as religious, spiritual, biological, geographical, or sociological characteristics. Culture is dynamic in nature, and individuals may identify with multiple cultures over the course of their lifetimes.

Elements of culture include, but are not limited to, the following:

• Age
• Cognitive ability or limitations
• Country of origin
• Degree of acculturation
• Educational level attained
• Environment and surroundings
• Family and household composition
• Gender identity
• Generation
• Health practices, including use of traditional healer techniques such as Reiki and acupuncture.
• Linguistic characteristics, including language(s) spoken, written, or signed; dialects or regional variants; literacy levels; and other related communication needs.
• Military affiliation
• Occupational groups
• Perceptions of family and community
• Perceptions of health and well-being and related practices.
• Perceptions/beliefs regarding diet and nutrition
• Physical ability or limitations
• Political beliefs
• Racial and ethnic groups include — but are not limited to — those defined by the U.S. Census Bureau.
• Religious and spiritual characteristics, including beliefs, practices, and support systems related to how an individual finds and defines meaning in his/her life.
• Residence (i.e., urban, rural, or suburban)
• Sex
• Sexual orientation
• Socioeconomic status

 US DHHS Office of Minority Health(2005)