Cultural Competence

Racial and ethnic minorities are a growing segment of the U.S. population and currently are either underserved and/or inappropriately served in the mental health system. Within a framework of addressing these mental health disparities, the level of a human service organization’s/system’s cultural competence can be described as the degree of compatibility and adaptability between the cultural/linguistic characteristics of a community’s population AND the way the organization’s combined policies and structures/processes work together to impede and/or facilitate access, availability and utilization of needed services/supports.

Issue Brief

Issue Brief 1: Accessibility of Mental Health Services: The Accessibility of Mental Health Services study was designed to identify and operationalize culturally competent organizational practices that can be implemented within systems of care to improve access to services for diverse children and their families. This issue brief presents a conceptual model that defines organizational cultural competence in terms of increased access and reduced disparities.


These monographs are products of research which will result in a new understanding of field-based, systemic and measurable organizational factors that lead to cultural competence in organizations and systems.  This new knowledge can assist in addressing a key issue related to health disparities identified by the President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health (2003) and the Surgeon General’s Report on Mental Health (U.S. DHHS, 1999).

Serving Everyone at the Table:
Strategies for Enhancing the Availability of Culturally Competent Mental Health Services

This monograph aims to increase awareness of the impact of culture on the availability of mental health services with the goal of improving services for culturally/racially diverse families in ways that reduce mental health disparities. The monograph is second in a series outlining successful strategies for increasing access, availability, and utilization of services at the organizational and direct service levels. Availability strategies were identified through interviews conducted with personnel from 12 organizations that met study criteria.

Creating a Front Porch: Strategies for Improving Access to Mental Health Services shares results of interviews conducted with personnel from selected organizations and focuses on key practices that were reported to increase accessibility of mental health services for underserved populations. It includes a description of each of the target populations served by the participating study sites, as well as information about the history and context of, and general service delivery information for each organization.

Examining the Research Base Supporting Cultural Competence in Children’s Mental Health Services shares results of an in-depth literature review which will become the basis of an attempt to operationalize cultural competence, with the eventual result being an organizational cultural competence assessment tool. This review identifies and describes organizational factors associated with increased access for ethnically/racial diverse children and their families to quality mental health services and supports.

Organizational Cultural Competence: A Review of Assessment Protocols contributes to understanding how cultural competence is currently operationalized and measured at the organizational level. This monograph compares organizational assessment instruments through the following questions:

  • For what type of organization was the instrument developed?
  • How were the instruments developed?
  • How do the authors define cultural competence?
  • What domains do the authors use as categories of analysis?