Cultural Competence

Cultural and linguistic competence is a set of congruent behaviors, attitudes, and policies that come together in a system, agency, or among professionals that enables effective work in cross-cultural situations.

  • "Culture" refers to integrated patterns of human behavior that include the language, thoughts, communications, actions, customs, beliefs, values, and institutions of racial, ethnic, religious, or social groups.
  • "Competence" implies having the capacity to function effectively as an individual and an organization within the context of the cultural beliefs, behaviors, and needs presented by consumers and their communities.  

(Adapted from Cross et al, 1989).

Through departmental and contracted programs and services, the Department of Behavioral Wellness is committed to involving consumers, clients, family members and individuals from diverse ethnic and cultural groups in developing, implementing and monitoring programs and services.  Stakeholders are involved in forums for diverse communities, including the Consumer and Family Member Advisory Committee, the Latino Advisory Committee, Consumer and Family Member Subcommittee of Quality Improvement, the Mental Health Commission, Peer Recovery Learning Communities and human resources panels.

The Department's commitment to providing culturally competent services is embedded through a wide range of policies and procedures, including telephone access, human resources training and recruitment, bilingual allowances, cultural competence training, interpretation, signage and other areas.

To advance cultural competency, the Department has focused on trainings about ethnically and culturally diverse communities, including Oaxaqueño, Native American, LGBTQ, African American, Filipino, Latino, consumers, families and the military.

Spanish is the "threshold language" in Santa Barbara County.  A threshold language is defined as "3,000 beneficiaries or 5% of the Medi-Cal population, whichever is lower, whose primary language is other than English." The Department of Behavioral Wellness seeks to maintain a diverse workforce by hiring and maintaining a departmental and contract staff that is at least 40% bilingual/bicultural (Spanish).