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Topics > Reducing Health Disparities Initiative > What We Are Doing > Ethnic Services, Reducing Disparities Both Central to One Woman's Career

New Chair for Mental Health Workgroup

Ethnic Services, Reducing Disparities Both Central to One Woman's Career

Vidya Iyengar, Ethnic Services and Training Manager for our Mental Health Division, chairs the Mental Health Reducing Health Disparities Workgroup.

Vidya Iyengar, Ethnic Services and Training Manager for our Mental Health Division, has been an advocate for the un-served, underserved, and indigent for most of her life. She received a degree in Homeopathic Medicine and Surgery that allowed her to practice medicine in India and later transitioned to studying psychology, a key component of holistic medicine, and obtained her Master's Degree in Counseling Psychology from California State University, Sacramento.

Vidya, who was born and grew up in India, joined our Mental Health Division in 2006 and has been chairing the Mental Health Reducing Health Disparities (MHRHD) workgroup for the past three months. One task of the group is to help develop and implement a cultural competency work plan.

The MHRHD workgroup, which is comprised of members from all levels of staff and administrative and clinical positions, is in the process of defining their values, vision and mission statements. The group is also drawing ideas from the Reducing Health Disparities 5-Year Overview.

"I'm seeing the group growing in strength and feel a new force forming, thanks to the Department's Reducing Health Disparities team (Dr. William Walker, José Martín and Dawna Vann) and our Director, Donna Wigand," she says. Vidya also works with individuals and groups to connect them to resources within our system of care, develops staff trainings and is working to create a training plan for the Mental Health Division.

Members of the Mental Health Reducing Health Disparities Workgroup (pictured above) are developing a work plan with specific action steps that can be easily applied by staff in order to implement the concept of cultural competency.

Survey Results in New Assessment Tool

The Mental Health Reducing Health Disparities workgroup, using a national competency survey as a guide, developed the "Cultural Competency Assessment Tool" to measure the cultural competence of Mental Health Programs and units. Members of the group worked on different sections, keeping in mind the survey had to be simple and at the same time give a comprehensive picture of the different aspects of a culturally competent organization. Some of the aspects that were measured with the CCAT and that will be closely looked at in the design of the new mental health cultural competency work plan are service accessibility, service delivery, organizational values, education and training, systems, language capacity and more.

The survey, which was distributed in Winter 2006/2007, was completed by 225 employees representing 13 Mental Health programs and units. A report is being finalized and preliminary findings show staff want more training. The same survey was issued to community-based organizations and is in the process of being analyzed. The group is also working on developing a similar survey for consumers.

Once all information is collected and analyzed, the group will use the results to develop their cultural competency work plan. "Our idea is to build on areas where the report indicates we're already doing well, to implement new strategies in areas that need improvement, and to develop a plan that's simple, has specific action steps and can be easily implemented by staff at different levels," said Vidya Iyengar, workgroup chair. The new plan will build on last year's plan and will use as guides the Reducing Health Disparities updated plan, the Mental Health Services Act program requirements, CHAPE's Executive Report and the Division's cultural competency plan.

Content provided by the Reducing Health Disparities Initiative.

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