Open Access Short Report

Do cultural and linguistic competence matter in Latinos’ completion of mandated substance abuse treatment?

Erick G Guerrero1*, Michael Campos2, Darren Urada3 and Joy C Yang4

Author Affiliations

1 School of Social Work, University of Southern California, 655 West 34th Street, Los Angeles, CA, 90089-041, USA

2 Gambling Studies Program, University of California, Los Angeles, 760 Westwood Plaza, Suite 38-260, Los Angeles, CA, 90024, USA

3 Integrated Substance Abuse Programs, Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, University of California, Los Angeles, 11075 Santa Monica Blvd., Suite 200, Los Angeles, CA, 90025, USA

4 Center for Chinese Studies, University of California, Los Angeles, 11381 Bunche Hall, Los Angeles, CA, 90095-1487, USA

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Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy 2012, 7:34  doi:10.1186/1747-597X-7-34

Published: 16 August 2012



Increasing evidence suggests that culturally and linguistically responsive programs may improve substance abuse treatment outcomes among Latinos. However, little is known about whether individual practices or culturally and linguistically responsive contexts support efforts by first-time Latino clients to successfully complete mandated treatment.


We analyzed client and program data from publicly funded treatment programs contracted through the criminal justice system in California. A sample of 5,150 first-time Latino clients nested within 48 treatment programs was analyzed using multilevel logistic regressions.


Outpatient treatment, homelessness, and a high frequency of drug use at intake were associated with decreased odds of treatment completion among Latinos. Programs that routinely offered a culturally and linguistically responsive practice—namely, Spanish-language translation—were associated with increased odds of completion of mandated treatment.


These preliminary findings suggest that concrete practices such as offering Spanish translation improve treatment adherence within a population that is at high risk of treatment dropout.

Cultural and linguistic competence; Treatment completion; Mandated substance abuse treatment; Latinos