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Developing Cultural Competency in Disaster Mental Health Programs: Guiding Principles and Recommendations

Department of Health and Human Services

January 1, 2003

Peoples’ reactions to disaster and their coping skills, as well as their receptivity to crisis counseling, differ significantly because of their individual beliefs, cultural traditions, and economic and social status in the community. For this reason, workers in our Nation’s public health and human services systems increasingly recognize the importance of cultural competence in the development, planning, and delivery of effective disaster mental health services.

The purpose of this guide is to assist States and communities in planning, designing, and implementing culturally competent disaster mental health services for survivors of natural and human-caused disasters of all scales. It complements information previously published by FEMA and CMHS on disaster mental health response and recovery. FEMA provided the funding for this guide as part of the agencies’ ongoing effort to address the needs of special Foreword 2 populations in disaster mental health response and recovery.


DHHS Cultural competence mental health