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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Qualitative evaluation of mental health services for clients with limited English proficiency

  • Author(s): Patel, Sita G
  • Firmender, William M
  • Snowden, Lonnie R
  • et al.

Abstract Background To meet federal requirements under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, the state of California instituted policies requiring that comprehensive mental health services in native languages be made available to limited English proficiency (LEP) populations when concentrations exceed “threshold” levels. Methods This paper builds on promising results from quantitative evaluations by reporting on qualitative interviews with Latino and Vietnamese LEP clients in mental health services (N = 20) to examine the awareness, impact, and implications of these threshold language policies. Results Results suggest that, while individuals are often not aware of the policies themselves, the language-related services they receive that are prompted by the policies are critical to treatment initiation and retention. Results also convey the complexities of using interpreters for sensitive psychological topics, and suggest that, for LEP individuals seeking mental health treatment, providers who speak their native languages are generally preferred. Conclusions Access to language-appropriate services seems to be an important part of why LEP populations seek mental health treatment. However, there are multiple variables that factor into the usage and usefulness of such services.

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