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OCLC equity

We are currently accepting nominations for the Behavioral Health Equity Innovative Achievement Award.  We are looking to recognize organizations or teams who are implementing promising methods that are promoting culturally and linguistically competent practices and focused on the reduction of disparities in racial, ethnic, and other disparate subpopulations. 



A population is a health disparity population if there is a significant disparity in the overall rate of disease incidence, prevalence, morbidity, mortality or survival rates in the population as compared to the health status of the general population.” Minority Health and Health Disparities Research and Education Act United States Public Law 106-525 (2000), p. 2498

Analyzing disparities is done by looking at: 

  • Access- who are the subpopulations being enrolled in the program?
  • Service Use- what subpopulations get what types and dosages of services?
  • Outcomes- given the specified outcomes of the program, how do these vary by subpopulations?

Health Equity

Health Equity is when all people have "the opportunity to 'attain their full health potential' and no one is 'disadvantaged from achieving this potential because of their social position or other socially determined circumstance'" (VDH Office of Minority Health and Health Equity).


The goal of DBHDS as a system is that all populations have equal access to high quality behavioral health care.  However, decades of research show a consistent pattern of behavioral health disparities in the US.

For example, white adults, American Indian or Alaska Native adults, and adults reporting two or more races consistently have a higher estimate of any past year mental health service use (ranging from 15.6 to 17.1 percent). Asian adults had the lowest estimate of mental health service use (4.9 percent), and black and Hispanic adults had similar estimates of service use that were in between those of white and Asian adults (7.3 to 8.6 percent). These patterns in the percentage of mental health service use by race/ethnicity did not change, regardless of gender, age, poverty status, and insurance status.(SAMHSA, 2012)

Additionally, black and latino adults had a lower estimate of mental health care visits compared with white adults, regardless of gender, age, education level, income, and insurance status. (Dobalian, A., & Rivers, P. A. 2008).

The overall pattern of differences (e.g., Asian adults having the least mental health service use, followed by black adults and Hispanic adults) was found in any mental health service use, prescription psychiatric medication use, and outpatient mental health service use. For inpatient mental health service use, however, black adults had a higher estimate of service use than white adults. This suggests blacks experience higher rates of more restrictive environments than whites. 

Researchers say there may be several reasons for these variations:

  • It may represent a difference in service use preference. 
  • These findings could be a result of structural factors. For example, Medicaid use is associated with higher inpatient service use, and this insurance type is more common among certain racial/ethnic groups.(Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality (2012a). 
  • Members of certain racial/ethnic groups may be more likely to delay using mental health services until the severity necessitates inpatient services. 
  • Inpatient mental health service use is usually reserved for individuals with acutely serious mental illness (SAMHSA, 2012).

It is our hope that, through this program, we can learn how organizations and teams are addressing disparities and begin to replicate them across the state. 

Eligibility Criteria

The nominated health care organization or team must demonstrate a unique and effective method for reducing behavioral health disparities or ways to incorporate culturally and/or linguistically appropriate practices by quantifying the positive impact it has had on the community. Organizations or teams must have operated programs within the behavioral health or developmental human services system.

Who Can Nominate

Anyone from community members who have benefited from a team or organization’s cultural or linguistic innovations to team members or supervisors who feel that there has been a great impact on the community and recognition would be well deserved.

Nomination Process

  • Complete the online form at
  • All nominations must be e-mailed to the OHEA and received by March 1, 2016 to be considered for spring nominations and October 1, 2016 to be considered for fall nominations.
  • Nominations for spring will also be considered for fall.
  • Recipients will be selected and notified 30 days prior to the award date.

We look forward to reading the submissions, recognizing you for your hard work, and sharing it with organizations influencing linguistic and cultural change throughout the Commonwealth!

For questions, email the OHEA

APA Disparities

Read how we utilize cultural and linguistic competence strategies and programming to address health equity in the Commonwealth.

DBHDS Health Disparities Overview

Would you like DBHDS technical assistance with your behavioral health equity initiative?

Read more here.