AUCD Diversity & Inclusion Toolkit Logo

Cultural competency: A guiding principle of the START model

START is a community-based crisis prevention & intervention service model for individuals age 6 and older with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) and mental health (MH) needs. START was first developed in 1988 by Dr. Joan B. Beasley and was cited as a national model in the 2002 US Surgeon General’s report on mental health disparities for people with IDD.

The Center for START Services (CSS) at the University of New Hampshire’s Institute on Disability (UNH/IOD) is an organization of experts in the mental health aspects of IDD that develop innovative MHIDD training programs, conduct research, and facilitate the development of START programs across the country. Members of the CSS national team assist regional and statewide START programs with program design, training and tools of the START model, on-going evaluation of outcomes, technical support and best practices in the MH aspects of IDD. All START programs work together as a national community of practice facilitated by the national Center for START Services.


Cultural competency is a guiding principle of the START model. Each of START’s guiding principles are identified in literature as best practices. Each service, tool and intervention endorsed by START is designed with these concepts in mind. Endorsed approaches are touchstones for START team members and a clear reminder of the rationale and reason behind the work of the START community.

Culture is at the core of our humanity. Everyone has a cultural perspective that helps us to know who we are. Without attention to and acceptance that there are unique perspectives, we miss opportunities to enlist our collective character strengths toward individual, professional and organizational growth.

The National Center for Cultural Competence at Georgetown University, defines cultural and linguistic competency as “The capacity of an organization and its personnel to communicate effectively and convey information in a manner that is easily understood by diverse groups including persons of limited English proficiency, those who have low literacy skills or are not literate, individuals with disabilities, and those who are deaf or hard of hearing. Linguistic competence requires organizational and provider capacity to respond effectively to the health and mental health literacy needs of populations served.”

Leading the way through acceptance and awareness is part of the mission of START and allows for important connections that expand individual and system capacity. All the approaches, practices and tools endorsed by START are applied through a cultural and linguistically competent lens. Cultural competency is a journey and goal of the START model. Thus, CSS has an ongoing relationship with the National Center for Cultural Competence to ensure accountability and ongoing learning.

Additional opportunities for reflection, collaboration and learning are available by:

• Connecting with a START program in your area (see the map of START program locations)

• Visiting the Center for START Services website

• Exploring CSS’ growing Diversity and Inclusion Resource Page

Subscribing to the CSS Mailing List

SEND Your Feedback