When you’re searching for a drug rehab, one of the first recommendations you’ll hear is to find a program that is accredited. What does it mean for a program to be accredited? And does accreditation ensure quality treatment?
In lieu of or in addition to getting licensed by the state, some addiction treatment programs choose to get accredited by a third party. In the U.S., drug rehab centers are most commonly accredited by:
Why Accreditation Matters
Accreditation by both CARF and the Joint Commission are widely accepted by state licensing agencies toward fulfillment of licensing requirements. Of the 13,339 addiction treatment programs that voluntarily responded to The National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services, 21.8 percent were accredited by CARF, 19.2 percent were accredited by the Joint Commission and 56.9 percent were not accredited by either.
Facilities that meet CARF or Joint Commission standards have demonstrated their commitment to being among the best drug rehab facilities in the world. Accrediting bodies have higher standards than state licensing requirements as well as guidelines for ongoing improvement. Accreditation is a rigorous process that includes a thorough review of the program’s structure, practices, clinical programming and outcomes. Facilities that are granted accreditation meet internationally accepted standards of quality and are committed to individualized treatment and client satisfaction.
Filling in the Gaps
Does accreditation ensure quality care? Often, but not always. CARF requires addiction services to incorporate “current research, evidence-based practice, peer-reviewed scientific and health publications, clinical practice guidelines and/or expert professional consensus.” Facilities must have specific written policies and procedures in place and must develop individualized treatment plans. The Joint Commission has similar requirements, though it does not specify what kind of psychosocial or pharmaceutical services should be provided.
A 2007 study showed several correlations between accreditation and quality care, but the association wasn’t uniform across all accredited programs. In another study, researchers found that programs that voluntarily seek accreditation have the resources and drive to improve their quality of care, and thus were more likely to adopt evidence-based practices than those subjected to mandatory accreditation.
As recently pointed out in a national study by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University, accreditation is a valuable measure of quality but it leaves a few gaps:
So does accreditation alone mean you’re receiving the best care available? You have to do your homework. Accreditation can’t guarantee a successful outcome, but it is one of the best indicators of quality that we have. By choosing an accredited program and asking detailed questions about the program staff, services and reputation, you can be confident that your rehab of choice is the best path to recovery.
David Sack, M.D., is board certified in psychiatry, addiction psychiatry and addiction medicine. He is CEO of Elements Behavioral Health, a network of mental health and addiction treatment centers that includes Promises, The Ranch, The Recovery Place, The Sexual Recovery Institute, Right Step, Clarity Way, Journey Healing Centers and Lucida Treatment Center.
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Last reviewed: 7 Jul 2014