Historically, the mental health system has not effectively addressed the needs of culturally and linguistically diverse individuals (President's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health, 2003), which has contributed to significant racial and ethnic disparities in mental health care (USDHHS, 2001). This paper focuses on exploring how a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Minority Health policy initiative, the National Standards for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) in Health and Health Care (or the National CLAS Standards), may be used by mental health agencies to reduce mental health care disparities. The National CLAS Standards are a set of action steps that inform and facilitate the implementation of culturally and linguistically appropriate services. We first discuss the role of cultural and linguistic competency in mental health care disparities reduction efforts, and then describe specific strategies to facilitate the organizational implementation of the National CLAS Standards.
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