MHTTCs Implementing Change

MIC Stories: Building Cultural Competency to Address Mental Health Needs of Migrant Students

mic story


Featuring the National Hispanic and Latino MHTTC: 
Building Cultural Competency to Address the Mental Health Needs of Migrant Students

MIC Stories (MHTTCs Implementing Change) feature technical assistance projects that had a significant impact on practice.

The Need

Students from Hispanic and Latino migrant families have a unique set of strengths and challenges, and school leaders, educators, and school mental health providers are not always equipped to best meet their needs. For example, in addition to poverty and lack of health insurance, language may be a significant barrier as many Latin American migrants speak indigenous languages rather than Spanish (e.g., in California there are 23 indigenous languages spoken). Mental health challenges are also prevalent, as almost half (44%) of Latinx youth experienced a traumatic event once, and 23% faced two or more traumatic experiences across the migration process (Cleary et al., 2018).

Ventura County, CA, is home to a large Hispanic and Latino migrant population. About 60% of students in the county self-identify as Hispanic or Latino. The Ventura County Office of Education identified a need to improve culturally responsive mental health services aligned with the health beliefs, practices, and needs of Hispanic migrant students and their families.



The National Hispanic and Latino MHTTC, in collaboration with the Ventura County Office of Education (VCOE), implemented targeted technical assistance to promote cultural and linguistic competence among school district staff serving Hispanic migrant children and their families.



This project sought to provide services across Ventura County’s 20 school districts and 12 charter schools. VCOE provides fiscal, training, and technology support services to local school districts, helping maintain and improve lifelong educational opportunities. The VCOE Comprehensive Health and Prevention Programs (CHPP) Department assists schools and districts by providing quality professional development on best practices to support student's academic achievement and healthy behavioral outcomes.


What We Did

From April to December 2020, the National Hispanic and Latino MHTTC provided:

  • Five tailored online monthly seminars
  • Coaching calls with schools administrators and VCOE staff (How many calls were held? How many schools were impacted)
  • Expertise in the translation to Spanish of professional development evaluation surveys used by VCOE

During the online seminars, Ventura County school district staff participated in learning experiences to build capacity in:

  • Trauma-informed strategies to support migrant students
  • Mental health issues in Latino youths
  • Using restorative justice as it relates to mental health in Latinos
  • Cultural and linguistic competency and equity
  • Stress management during the events of 2020, including wildfires and the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Acculturative stress management



Providing tailored information and strategies that fit with the audience is a challenge in any technical assistance project. Before developing didactic content and resources and establishing the number of seminars needed to address their staff training needs, the National Hispanic and Latino MHTTC worked with VCOE administrative staff to ensure which content should be provided. After each virtual learning seminar, National Hispanic and Latino MHTTC and VCOE administrative staff shared evaluation reports and provided feedback to maximize learning opportunities relevant to school district staff for the next virtual learning activity.


What Changed?

The National Hispanic and Latino MHTTC employed a mixed-methods design to evaluate the outcomes of the targeted technical assistance.  

  • Virtual learning seminars increased participants’ mental health literacy and self-confidence when working with Hispanic migrant students
  • Participants reported increased confidence in understanding the intersection of culture and mental health, capacity to implement culturally responsive services and evidence-based strategies targeted to Latino migrant students, capacity to recognize culture-related stressors and their possible impact on mental health, readiness to implement culturally responsive approaches in school settings, and understanding of the need for culturally responsive approaches in school settings.
  • Participants valued learning about mental health and other students' concerns through a cultural lens that provided understanding, connection, and support.


What's Next?

The National Hispanic and Latino MHTTC plans to:

  • Continue to establish collaborations with community organizations and school districts serving Hispanic populations
  • Conduct a needs assessment to identify the mental health needs of the Hispanic population
  • Develop future virtual learning seminars with other school districts and community partners to build cultural and linguistic competence


Lessons Learned

The National Hispanic and Latino MHTTC serves as a key subject matter expert to ensure that high-quality, effective mental health treatment and recovery support services and evidence-based and promising practices are available to the workforce to help reduce health disparities among Hispanics and Latinos experiencing mental disorders. The VCOE is committed to providing quality professional development on best practices to support Hispanic migrant students' academic achievement and healthy behavioral outcomes. Our collaboration enhanced the provision of culturally responsive services, and emphasized the importance of access and linkage to mental health services, especially for underserved populations; the provision of tier 1, tier 2, and tier 3 interventions targeted to the specific needs of migrant students; and reducing stigma and discrimination.

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The National Hispanic and Latino MHTTC, funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, is located in Bayamon, Puerto Rico and is housed at the Universidad Central del Caribe. The mission of the National Hispanic and Latino MHTTC is to provide high-quality training and technical assistance to improve the capacity of the workforce serving Hispanic and Latino communities in behavioral health prevention, treatment, and recovery. The National Hispanic and Latino MHTTC also disseminates and supports the implementation of evidence-based and promising practices to enhance service delivery, promote the growth of a diverse, culturally competent workforce, and bridge access to quality behavioral health services. The National Hispanic and Latino MHTTC is committed to increasing health equity and access through effective culturally and linguistically grounded approaches.

Cleary, S., Snead, R., Dietz-Chaves, D., Rivera, I., & Edberg, M. (2018). Immigrant trauma and mental health outcomes among Latino youth. Journal of Immigration Minority Health, 20(5), 1053- 1059.

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