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Cultural competency

Culture influences an individual’s health and mental health beliefs, practices, behaviors and even the outcomes of interventions. Health behavior depends on how one understands the cause of illness. In mental health and medicine, research indicates that culturally appropriate service improves diagnostic accuracy, increases adherence to recommended treatment and reduces inappropriate emergency room and psychiatric hospital use.

Cultural competency is the ability and the will to respond to the unique needs of a child and family that arise from the child’s culture. Cultural competency is also the ability to use the child’s culture as a resource or tool to assist with the intervention and help meet the child’s needs. This approach to serving others views cultural values and traditions as strengths that can play an important part in meeting child and youth mental health needs. Minnesota consists of many diverse populations and cultures, which are growing all the time, making it vital to develop culturally and linguistically competent providers capable of delivering culturally appropriate services.

Health care and mental health disparities are closely connected to race, culture, ethnicity and poverty. Due to a variety of barriers, mental health services are less available and accessible for people of color and other groups, such as children and youth, deaf and hard of hearing and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people. DHS is working to address policies to improve treatment planning and practices related to cultural competency and health disparities. In addition, the division administers grants that cover clinical supervision costs for cultural minority candidates for mental health professional licensure; training for practitioners and behavior aides; and direct services for uninsured children of minority families.

Cultural competency, combined with clinical standards, improves the quality of mental health care for children from diverse communities. It works to ensure equal access and non-discriminatory practices in service delivery. “Mental health services often are more effective when they are provided with the most relevant and meaningful cultural, gender-sensitive, and age-appropriate context for the people being served.” (Cultural Competence Standards in Managed Care Mental Health Services, Center for Mental Health Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services)

DHS has revised the outpatient mental health services rule to ensure providers are mindful of cultural influences when conducting diagnostic assessments and clinical supervision.

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