ATTC's Pearls of Wisdom: Saving Lives and Advancing Behavioral Health Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion

 By: Dr. Susie Villalobos, National Hispanic Latino Addiction Technology Transfer Center

SAMHSA Addiction Technology Transfer Centers

In the realm of behavioral health, access to effective treatment and support services is crucial for individuals facing mental health challenges or substance use disorders. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has taken significant strides in promoting behavioral health equity, diversity, and inclusion through its Addiction Technology Transfer Centers (ATTC). Let’s explore the vital work of SAMHSA ATTC, highlighting its efforts to save lives and foster a more inclusive and equitable approach to behavioral health.

The ATTC is a national network comprising 10 regional centers, and two national centers focused on specific populations – the American Indian/Alaska Native ATTC, and the National Hispanic and Latino ATTC. Each center is tasked with disseminating evidence-based practices and fostering workforce development in the field of substance use disorder treatment and recovery. 

ATTCs collaborate with various stakeholders, including treatment providers, policymakers, and community organizations, to improve the delivery and accessibility of behavioral health services.  The network also  recognizes that behavioral health disparities disproportionately affect marginalized communities. To address this issue, the centers prioritize initiatives aimed at achieving behavioral health equity. They focus on increasing access to care, reducing stigma, and improving cultural competence among service providers. 

By equipping professionals with the necessary knowledge and skills, the ATTCs contribute to reducing disparities and ensuring that all individuals, regardless of their background, receive equitable care.

Diversity and inclusion are vital components of effective behavioral health systems. The ATTC Network actively promotes these principles by fostering a culturally responsive approach. The centers work to create an environment that respects and embraces diverse perspectives, acknowledging the unique needs and experiences of individuals from various backgrounds. By facilitating cross-cultural understanding, the ATTCs empower providers to deliver person-centered care that accounts for cultural, linguistic, and other relevant factors.

National Hispanic/Latino ATTC

Recognizing that a one-size-fits-all approach may not be effective, the National Hispanic/Latino  ATTC provides tailored technical assistance to organizations and providers working with Hispanic/Latino populations. This assistance includes guidance, resources, and support to help these entities develop and implement culturally competent policies, practices, and programs. By addressing specific needs and challenges, the National Hispanic and Latino ATTC empowers organizations to enhance their services and improve outcomes for the communities they serve.

Our center places a strong emphasis on engaging community stakeholders, recognizing that collaboration and community involvement are essential for achieving behavioral health equity. We work closely with community-based organizations, advocacy groups, and grassroots initiatives to understand the unique needs and challenges faced by Hispanic/Latino communities. By fostering partnerships, our center ensures that our training and technical assistance efforts are informed by lived experiences and community insights.

A significant barrier to accessing behavioral health services for Hispanic/Latino individuals is language. To address this issue, the National Hispanic and Latino ATTC ensures that their training and technical assistance materials are available in multiple languages. We prioritize linguistic competence, providing resources and training in Spanish and other languages commonly spoken within the Hispanic/Latino population. This commitment to language access helps bridge the communication gap and ensures that individuals can access and understand the information and support they need.

Beacon of progress

Promoting behavioral health equity, diversity, and inclusion requires intentional efforts and dedicated initiatives. The National Hispanic and Latino ATTC serves as a beacon of progress in this regard. Through our comprehensive Training and Technical Assistance, we work tirelessly to empower behavioral health professionals, organizations, and community stakeholders to better understand and address the unique challenges faced by Hispanic/Latino communities. By prioritizing cultural competence, linguistic access, and community engagement, we actively contribute to the development of a more equitable and inclusive behavioral health landscape.

These efforts serve as an inspiration for the field, highlighting the transformative potential of training and technical assistance in creating lasting change. The National Hispanic and Latino ATTC has proudly served the SAMHSA network since 2019. During that short time have produced a two-day, in-person national conference with a 98% satisfaction rate from 320 participants, a National Hispanic Latino Executive Leadership Academy with a 95% graduation rate, the Latinos Con Voz podcast series found on Apple and Spotify, and countless toolkits, webinars, short videos and technical assistance activities.

The ATTC Network’s commitment to saving lives and advancing behavioral health equity, diversity, and inclusion is commendable. Through training, technical assistance, and collaborative partnerships, ATTCs empower providers to offer high-quality care that meets the needs of diverse populations. By prioritizing cultural competence and reducing disparities, our network plays a pivotal role in creating a more inclusive and equitable behavioral health system, where every individual can access the support, they need to thrive.

About the author:

Dr. Susie Villalobos
Dr. Susie Villalobos is the director of the National Latino Hispanic Addiction and Prevention Technology Transfer Centers. Before joining the National Latino Behavioral Health Association, Dr. Villalobos worked with academic institutions and non-profits as a public advocate and researcher by implementing and managing clinical and socio-behavioral studies/programs. Her expertise in working with local, state and federal agencies stems from her associations with CBOs focused on activities committed to focusing on health disparities among Latino populations living and working on the U.S. – Mexico Border. She is a 2020-2021 graduate from the National Hispanic Latino and National Latino Behavioral Health Leadership Academy. She is particularly passionate about tackling issues faced by Latino populations across, age, race, gender, and biographical location. Her federal grant management experience includes the implementation of the SAMHSA Strategic Prevention Framework to communities focused on substance use prevention efforts in the four states of California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. Dr. Villalobos was trained at the BNI ART Institute at Boston University School of Public Health, to integrate and apply Screening, Brief, Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) to Latino individuals presenting substance use risk behaviors in an emergency room setting delivered by promotores. Dr. Villalobos received her doctorate in Educational Administration and Leadership from the Department of Education at the University of Texas at El Paso, and a master’s degree in educational psychology from the Department of Education at the University of Texas at El Paso.

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