Technical Assistance Partnership for Child and Family Mental Health

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Learn about the Cultural Competence Action Team and strategies for assisting system of care communities, background and experience, contact information, frequently asked questions and requested information, and other technical assistance available from the TA Partnership.

About the Cultural Competence Action Team

The Cultural Competence Action Team (CCAT) is a team that is diverse in its ethnic and racial composition. The team’s members have:

  • Expertise in family leadership in cultural competence;
  • On-the-ground infrastructure building at the state and community level;
  • Clinical experience with diverse populations;
  • Expertise in research and evaluation work to reduce disparities; and
  • National, state, and local policy experience.

Key Principles

  • Valuing the diversity in TA approaches necessary for different cultural, ethnic, and racial communities;
  • Ensuring that this cultural diversity is represented in our team in an inclusive way; and
  • Moving from theory and concept to practical strategies, implementation, and action.

Cultural Competence Action Team Members

Photo: Ken Martinez

Ken Martinez, a native New Mexican, was born and raised in Santa Fe. His cultural roots are Mexican American, Spanish American, and American Indian. Growing up in a large, traditional extended family, Ken was raised with strong familial, spiritual, and cultural values, beliefs, traditions, and rituals, and was highly influenced by his grandparents. Belief in family and respect for elders and their wisdom was always a fundamental teaching that permeated the Martinez/Sandoval household. A strong value on education encouraged Ken to pursue higher education, which culminated in a doctorate in psychology. Since that time, Ken has been a clinician, teacher, administrator, policy maker, and now a technical assistance provider for the Technical Assistance Partnership.

Ken was the State Children’s Behavioral Health Director in New Mexico and is Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center. As immediate past Chair of the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors (NASMHPD), Children, Youth and Families Division, Ken represented the children’s mental health directors of the 50 states and territories.

Photo: Karen B. Francis

Karen B. Francis was born and raised in Jamaica, West Indies. She grew up in a racially and ethnically diverse family and community, an experience that she feels has been a real gift and an asset that has prepared her for life. Having grandparents of both German and African descent, uncles of Asian descent, and a nephew that is bi-racial black and Asian is just a small example of the diversity in her family. At the age of 16 Karen came to the United States to enter college. Karen is involved in volunteer community work both in Washington, DC and Jamaica. She is co-founder and Vice President of Jamaican Women of Washington (JWOW, Inc), a private non-profit organization with a mission to raise awareness and provide support to organizations that focus on improving the health and quality of life of underserved and vulnerable women, children, and families, primarily in Jamaica, W.I., and the Caribbean region.

Karen is a Senior Research Analyst at American Institutes for Research (AIR). She served as the on-site consultant on Cultural and Linguistic Competency to the Child Adolescent and Family Branch (CAFB), Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS), SAMHSA, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In this capacity, Karen coordinated the sharing of information, resources, best practices, and other tools to ensure the development of effective strategies for addressing cultural and linguistic competency and the reduction of racial/ethnic disparities related to the activities and programmatic thrusts of the CAFB. Karen served on the SAMHSA Disparities Workgroup that provides support and guidance to SAMHSA’s efforts in addressing racial/ethnic disparities. Karen is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.,. She lives in Maryland with her son.

Photo: Jeff Poirier

Jeff Poirier was born and raised in western Massachusetts by a family with strong French Canadian cultural roots.  He openly identified as gay at the age of 15, but personally recognized this identity as a young child.  Jeff is very grateful for his supportive, accepting family, which fostered a generally positive "coming out" experience.  He completed his undergraduate education at the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied communications, sociology, and urban education.  During this period of his life, Jonathan Kozol’s work on educational disparities (Savage Inequalities) inspired Jeff to pursue educational policy and research for graduate study and work – to invest his energy in efforts to improve educational equity and the experience of those who are typically underserved.  He then moved to Washington, DC, where he joined the American Institutes for Research (AIR) in 2000 and completed a Master’s degree in education policy in 2003. 


Technical Assistance Offered

Ken Martinez is the lead contact for technical assistance within the area of cultural and linguistic competence, and can be reached at [email protected]. However, please feel free to contact any member of the CCAT with your TA requests.

The TA Partnership also has a consultant pool of experts in the area of cultural and linguistic competence who can serve as an additional resource for the system of care communities.



Contact Information