Skip to Content
Agencies | Governor
Search Virginia.Gov

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



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. 

National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month Media Contest - This year's 1st place Winner is Fairfax Falls Church Community Services Board - Health Promotion and Prevention Services - With a video highlighting their program called “Primeros Auxilios para la Salud Mental”, the Spanish version of the MHFA training they have been providing since summer 2013 in Falls Church, Springfield, Annandale, Fairfax and Herndon in partnership with churches and other county agencies. See the video and read about additonal winners.

Building Bridges Conference - Building Bridges IV welcomed over 100 participants interested in cultural considerations in community living in Richmond this past October.

2014 Northern Virginia Language Access Leadership Conference - In this one of a kind discussion on the implementation, funding, sustainment, and evaluation of language services in government, we heard from state and national speakers on a variety of aspects of language access. Developing leadership in this area is critical for advancing this work.  That is the ongoing focus of this annual conference. Presentation materials are available at the link above.

Planning language access services in your organization? - Talk to us about implementing a Qualified Bilingual Staff program.  Leverage your bilingual staff to ensure effective communication for the individuals you serve and build your language toolbox.


 WHAT'S NEW NATIONALLY?  Read about the OBHE @ SAMHSA and the latest tool for organizational assessment.

Organizational Assessment as a Strategy to Reduce Behavioral Health Disparities: The HHS Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's Use of the National CLAS Standards.  By: Roslyn Holliday Moore, MS (HHS SAMHSA; member of the National Project Advisory Committee for the National CLAS Standards), Miatta Echetebu (HHS SAMHSA), Cheri Wilson, MHS (Johns Hopkins University)

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.
The BHSS360 has been administered to SAMHSA grantees in three states thus far, with a total of 450 surveys completed during the early rollout phase of the effort. Preliminary results are being examined for emerging "best practices" and alignment with technical assistance resources to support innovative strategies for leveraging the National CLAS Standards to promote positive behavioral health outcomes.


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)