Behavioral Health Interpreter Academy

Logo and Text Cropped

This program is currently on hold and classes are not being scheduled.

For questions, contact Amy Meyertholen at


Welcome and Academy History

The Behavioral Health Interpreter Academy is the result of many years of many folks’ dedication and hard work.

In December 2004, the Arizona Council of Human Service Providers published a white paper entitled “Achieving a Culturally Competent and Linguistically Appropriate Human Service Delivery System:  A Framework for Action”.  The Arizona Council had earlier formed a Diversity Committee to establish a definition of a culturally competent service delivery and assist our member programs providing culturally and linguistically appropriate services.  Their hope was to create a system in which any individual, from any background, could access services in an environment that was reflective and understanding of and responsive to their culture as they defined it, regardless of their race, ethnicity, ability status, religious preference, gender, or sexual orientation.  The white paper defined guiding principles/values, components of a culturally competent system, identified measurable results, and tools for agency self-assessments.

Following publication of the white paper, the Arizona Council held “Making Cultural Competency a Way of Life”, a 2 day conference held in July 2005.  The conference was sponsored by the Department of Health Services, the Regional Behavioral Health Authorities, member organizations, and vendors.  In addition to six presentations from thought leaders and panel discussions, there were art, music, and drama presentations.  Many of those who attended the conference returned to their organizations to begin the work of agency self-assessment and transformation.

Still seeing work that needed to be done, with funding from St. Luke Health Indicatives, the Arizona Council and the Diversity Committee embarked on creating training materials for culturally competent service delivery and interpretation.  The end result was five courses developed for Relias on line learning.  These courses were recently updated and are still being used.

Not ready to stop yet, there became an obvious need for training for those providing interpretation services in behavioral health settings.  We knew that in many settings in our member agencies, Spanish speakers were being called on to provide interpretation for case managers, clinicians, and crisis teams without a strong understanding of the skills needed for interpretation and the vocabulary to work in behavioral health.  In partnership with Jewish Family and Children’s Services and Valle del Sol, the Council developed what is now the Behavioral Health Interpreter Academy.

We wanted to train interpreters—to understand their role, the ethics of interpretation, and the skills for interpretation in various settings with a wide range of clients.  We also wanted to give them a basic understanding of behavioral health—not to become clinicians themselves, but to know the signs and symptoms of mental illness, understand the kinds of assessments that they would encounter, and learn the appropriate terminology used by providers.  And we wanted to make the program accessible, timely, and meaningful.

Using a blended learning approach, we hope that we have achieved those goals.  We know that adult learners don’t want to be lectured.  They want to be given information, have time to digest it, and then they want to talk about it.  We know that those working in behavioral health have full lives and busy schedules.  They want to be able to work independently to process didactic information and meet for short meaningful periods of time to process that material with others.  We know that online learning is the wave of the future and we took advantage of that and technology that makes learning easy.  And we knew that we needed a rigorous pre- and post-assessment process to make sure that those coming into the Interpreter Academy had adequate bilingual skills and those leaving the course had exceptional interpretation skills.

We set the bar high.  Because everyone, regardless of their language or culture or background, deserves the very best service delivery available.

There are many people to thank since this has been a very long journey.

  • All of the members of the Diversity Committee, current and past, including Argie Gomez and Gustavo McGrew who co-chaired the original committee
  • All of the Regional Behavioral Health Authorities, current and past
  • Arizona Department of Health Services
  • Eduardo Aliskevich
  • Emily Jenkins, Dr. Michael Zent, and Kurt Shepard, who kept the project going
  • Gerald Peters
  • Randy Webb
  • St Luke’s Health Initiative
  • Teresa Pena

And many more who helped along the way.  The mark of each of you is on the Academy.


Back to Top