Cultural competence in outpatient substance abuse treatment: measurement and relationship to wait time and retention

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2011 Dec 1;119(1-2):e13-22. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2011.05.020. Epub 2011 Jun 15.


Background: Culturally competent practice is broadly acknowledged to be an important strategy to increase the quality of services for racial/ethnic minorities in substance abuse treatment. However, few empirically derived measures of organizational cultural competence exist, and relatively little is known about how these measures affect treatment outcomes.

Method: Using a nationally representative sample of outpatient substance abuse treatment (OSAT) programs, this study used item response theory to create two measures of cultural competence-organizational practices and managers' culturally sensitive beliefs-and examined their relationship to client wait time and retention using Poisson regression modeling.

Results: The most common and precisely measured organizational practices reported by OSAT managers included matching providers and clients based on language/dialect; offering cross-cultural training; and fostering connections with community and faith-based organizations connected to racial and ethnic minority groups. The most culturally sensitive belief among OSAT managers was support for language/dialect matching for racial and ethnic minority clients. Results of regression modeling indicate that organizational practices were not related to either outcome. However, managers' culturally sensitive beliefs were negatively associated with average wait time (p<0.05), and positively associated with average retention (p<0.01).

Conclusions: Managers' culturally sensitive beliefs-considered to be influential for effective implementation of culturally competent practices-may be particularly relevant in influencing wait time and retention in OSAT organizations that treat Latinos and African American clients.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Ambulatory Care / organization & administration*
  • Black or African American
  • Cultural Competency*
  • Cultural Diversity*
  • Hispanic or Latino
  • Humans
  • Minority Groups
  • Outpatients
  • Psychometrics / methods
  • Retention, Psychology
  • Substance Abuse Treatment Centers / methods
  • Substance Abuse Treatment Centers / organization & administration*
  • Substance Abuse Treatment Centers / statistics & numerical data
  • Substance-Related Disorders / ethnology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / rehabilitation*
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome