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State agency and IUPUI partner for cultural competency conference in health care


INDIANAPOLIS — A conference Friday, May 31, at the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis Campus Center will focus on cultural competency in delivering mental health services.

The 12th Annual Indiana Conference on Cultural Competency takes place from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. with the theme of “Eliminating Disparities in Mental Health.” The conference is free of charge to health care professionals, students, legislators, policy-makers or policy advocates who have an interest in cross-cultural interaction in health care.

The conference is part of the Cultural Competency Program partnership bringing together faculty and staff from IUPUI and the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration’s Division of Mental Health and Addiction, to provide resources and information for state health care providers.

The Cultural Competency Program involves IUPUI’s Center for Urban and Multicultural Education at the Indiana University School of Education and the Equity Institute on Race, Culture and Transformative Action at IUPUI; as well as a multidisciplinary team from across campus including the schools of medicine, public health and science, and the Office of Equal Opportunity.

“Changes in the demographics of Indiana not only offer opportunities for increased cultural vitality throughout our state but also present challenges to health care providers in meeting the mental well-being needs of an increasingly diverse population,” said David Suzuki, project director and director of the Equity Institute on Race, Culture and Transformative Action. “We expect this conference to provide culturally relevant discussions and insights that will help professionals better serve their clients and patients.”

Friday’s conference features a keynote from past American Psychological Association President Melba Vasquez, a prolific author on psychotherapy ethics and multicultural psychology. Breakout sessions throughout the day will focus on a variety of topics. Monica Medina, faculty member at the School of Education and associate director for community partnerships at the Center for Urban and Multicultural Education, and Ivette Barbosa, School of Social Work student services coordinator, will present on the subject of “Advancing Mental Health Standard of Care for the Latino Community.”

Reducing health disparities takes a multidisciplinary, collaborative approach to address inequities in health access and quality of care,” Medina said. “The harmful effects of discrimination, cultural loss and social exclusion from resources and activities that allow people to thrive in their communities impact the mental health of Hispanic/Latinos. This conference is designed to reach out to providers who serve historically unserved or underserved communities in Indiana. This workshop invites them to learn about the mental health concerns, and the types of programs that might help prevent mental illness from developing in their communities.”

Other breakout sessions will focus on working with English Language Learner children and families; lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender, queer  (LBGTQ ) issues; and depression in low-income mothers. The additional sessions will highlight cultural practices and systemic inequalities that influence the mental health of marginalized groups. Sessions are designed to promote invaluable discussion and illuminate culturally relevant practices when providing services to diverse populations.

To learn more about the Cultural Competency Program, email the program at