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Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services - Office of Cultural & Linguistic Competence


DBHDS defines culture in the broad sense, as there are other things in addition to race, language, and ethnicity that contribute to a person’s sense of self. These may be more specific or more general subgroups based on attributes (such as gender or sexual orientation), or shared life experiences (such as survival of violence and/or trauma, education, or homelessness). Multiple memberships in subgroups contribute to an individual’s personal identity and sense of “culture”. Understanding how these factors affect a person is important to providing culturally competent care.

The Office of Cultural & Linguistic Competence, established in August 2008, leads efforts to provide improved services to multicultural consumers and works toward eliminating the disparities within the state’s mental health, intellectual disability and substance-use disorder system. During the initial development of the office, the office will focus on several key areas:

  • Expanding the number of culturally and linguistically competent service providers, stakeholders, and staff within the public and private sector.
  • Identifying issues and providing technical support for addressing language access needs.
  • Developing a state plan to incorporate cultural competence as a critical component in key management activities including planning, quality management, contracts and staff training.
  • Providing legislative and policy expertise to enhance accessibility and capacity for successful recovery, self-determination, and empowerment of diverse populations.
  • Identifying relevant data elements needed to report program and service outcomes measures and identify progress