Compare the search for a rehab facility to searching for a new car. You likely wouldn’t get any old thing, because you’ll need it to reliably get you places.
This is a useful comparison when looking for a rehab provider. You want to make sure that the place is licensed, the facilities are current, the staff trained, and the therapies are sound. That’s where an organization like the Joint Commission can prove valuable.
The Joint Commission is an independent, not-for-profit organization that accredits and certifies more than 22,000 healthcare organizations and programs — including behavioral health care centers — across the United States. According to the Joint Commission, it’s the only accreditation entity to represent “the entire continuum of health care.”
Once known as the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO), the Joint Commission’s mission covers several key points:
- To improve health care for the public
- To collaborate with other stakeholders
- To assess other health care organizations, encouraging them to provide safe, quality care
When an organization has been certified and accredited by the Joint Commission — Sunshine Behavioral Health facilities have received these designations for their mental health and chemical dependency services — that means that the facilities meet certain criteria.
Earning accreditation means a facility has passed an external evaluation. This, according to the Joint Commission website, verifies “the quality of care, treatment or services delivered to the individuals” an organization serves. The accreditation process means the organization has undergone “an in-depth review of safety and care delivery processes. [It] is a visible demonstration to those you serve, their families, your staff and community of your organization’s ongoing commitment to safe, high quality care, treatment or services.”
The Joint Commission (JC) awards a Gold Seal of Approval when facilities meet its standards. It conducts in-site surveys at least every three years. It inspects laboratories every two years. As part of its process, the organization does not announce inspection dates.
While the JC does not publish survey findings, accreditation history and information on facilities and available services are included on the Joint Commission site. The site is also a place to check all accredited organizations to see how they compare against one another.
It is worth noting that the accreditation and certification processes are not mandatory; rather it is up to the facilities to seek Joint Commission approval.
The U.S. government agency Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA.gov) has a search option, too, where one can research rehab centers. (Sunshine Behavioral Health facilities are listed on both the Joint Commission and SAMHSA websites.)
SAMHSA has recommendations for what people should look for when choosing a rehab provider. The following five signs are indicators that the treatment will be of better quality:
- Accreditation: Look for a state license or certification and check for an inspection record to see whether the facility is up-to-date. Find out if the staff is schooled in treating substance abuse and mental disorders.
- Medication: Check that the facility prescribes FDA-approved medicines to help recovering alcohol and opioid abusers. (No other substance use disorders have approved drug treatments.)
- Evidence-based practice: The facility should provide proven therapies such as medication-assisted treatment (MAT), cognitive behavioral therapy, counseling, and education. Also, medical care should be available.
- Families: Relatives should be able to participate in parts of the treatment process. Their input, understanding, and support can play a key role in recovery.
- Support: The program should offer treatment beyond substance abuse issues. Long-term care and follow-ups can be extremely beneficial in maintaining abstinence.
Another government-affiliated organization, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, offers its own tips on finding quality treatment, many overlapping with SAMHSA’s. Rehab seekers, in addition to checking credentials, should:
- Make sure that people receive full assessments and ensure that those assessments meet all of their needs.
- Research whether rehab centers offer personalized treatment plans.
- Determine that the rehab centers’ treatments are based on proven scientific principles
- Confirm that rehab centers will help people develop plans for continuing their treatment post-recovery.
Why is accreditation important and what does it mean to clients?
Accreditation is important in several key ways.
Organizations that are accredited meet the latest and greatest improvement strategies. This means safer, better quality care.
A number of insurance providers and third parties will not pay for treatment conducted at facilities or centers that do not have credentials from the Joint Commission or the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF). Joint Commission accreditation means that treatment is more likely to be accepted.
Accreditation sometimes means certain regulatory requirements have been met.
Other Joint Commission offerings include educational opportunities that allow accredited organizations to better their business operations. Joint Commission surveyors represent a wide variety of health care industries — including doctors, nurses, hospital administrators, and lab experts — and they visit facilities and practice their expertise. As a result, they know what to look for, and how to measure an organization’s adherence to standards.
During the Joint Commission’s study, investigators typical review select client records to monitor centers’ progress and their compliance to standards. Surveyors will examine the clients’ courses of treatment, which includes questioning attending doctors, nurses, and other staffers about the clients’ progress. The medical teams will be observed, and many times, investigators interview clients about their experiences on-site.
Although facilities are inspected approximately every three years (and laboratories every two), the accreditation process is not simply forgotten until time draws near for another review. Organizations must perform their own self assessments as a way of self-monitoring. To assist with such self assessments, the Joint Commission offers its members a number of tools so they can measure and improve their performance.
Resources for maintaining a behavioral health accreditation include keeping current with regularly updated national client/patient safety goals, which were first instituted beginning in 2003. Changes for 2019 include minimizing risks for clients.
Sunshine Behavioral Health, for example, meets several of the Joint Commission’s National Patient Safety Goals for 2019, including:
- Noting which clients may be at a higher risk for suicide.
- Meeting guidelines for hand hygiene.
- Improving the accuracy of identifying clients (via two forms of identification).
- Bettering the administration of medications.
Accreditation can also attract better staff prospects as well, in part because some people seek accredited employers. Such workplaces offer workers opportunities to further educate themselves. Accreditation thus helps clients and health care providers.
- Alcoholtreatment.niaaa.nih.gov – How to Spot Quality Treatment
- JointCommission.org – How Does the Joint Commission Stand Out from the Crowd?
- JointCommission.org – Joint Commission FAQ Page
- JointCommission.org – Resources for Maintaining Behavioral Health Accreditation
- QualityCheck.org – Sunshine Behavioral Health LLC Accreditation History
- SAMHSA.gov – Finding Quality Treatment for Substance Use Disorders