The passing of the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA), Proposition 63, dramatically changed the landscape of mental health services within California. One of the most momentous aspects of MHSA was the recognition that Prevention and Early Intervention services was a key strategy to preventing mental illness.

Since the passing of MHSA, one of the key community mental health needs that has consistently been identified is the disparity in accessing services whether that disparity is due to stigma, lack of knowledge about mental health services or lack of suitability (i.e., cultural competency) of traditional mainstream services. This disparity has been formulated as the need to serve ‘underserved cultural populations’ and all PEI projects are subsequently required to include a focus on reducing disparities in mental health across racial/ethnic and socio-economic groups.

The Multi-Ethnic Collaborative of Community Agencies (MECCA) was founded in response to the passing of MHSA and its PEI focus on cultural competency and the need to serve underserved cultural communities. Since its inception in 2010, MECCA has been successfully serving the multi-ethnic communities of Orange County with culturally competent PEI services. Most importantly, MECCA has been serving traditionally underserved or hard-to-reach individuals and communities due to the trust and familiarity of its member agencies, some of whom have been serving the community for decades.

As MECCA has grown as a collaborative, it has recognized that the culture-specific stigma, surrounding mental illness in ethnic communities, is so great and so deeply-rooted that services or programs alone are insufficient in addressing and reducing this stigma for the long-term. Consequently, MECCA’s approach to stigma reduction has become multi-faceted, intergenerational and policy-oriented.