Treatment Facility Accreditations: What to Look for

Accreditation is a voluntary process some treatment centers go through to demonstrate—and improve on—their high level of quality. Treatment facility accreditation by an industry-respected third-party accrediting body requires a lengthy evaluation process. The accrediting body will objectively evaluate the facility’s therapy practices and programs in comparison to the highest standards in the industry.

Accreditation is a long, difficult process, and it’s expensive. Programs seeking accreditation pay an application fee that can run in the thousands, and they foot the bill for the on-site surveyors, including travel, lodging, food and pay. The amount of time needed to earn an accreditation can range from six months to over a year. During that time, every aspect of the program is evaluated, from record-keeping practices to the cultural sensitivity of staff.

Consistent evidence shows that treatment facility accreditations improve clinical outcomes and are a recommended tool to improve the quality of treatment.1 Choosing a treatment facility with an industry-recognized accreditation helps you know you’re choosing a high-quality treatment program with a proven track record and approval from the trusted keepers of the highest standards in the industry.

The Main Addiction Treatment Accreditations: CARF and The Joint Commission

The two largest accrediting organizations are The Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities and The Joint Commission. CARF, the largest, is a non-profit body that evaluates dual diagnosis and substance abuse programs, among other types of programs.

Recognized in the U.S., Canada and Europe, CARF and Joint Commission treatment facility accreditations ensure that a facility meets the highest industry standards across a range of services. Accreditation by these bodies means that, among other things, the facility:

  • Has a trained staff that meets strict educational requirements
  • Has a quality treatment program for addiction and co-occurring disorders
  • Meets high standards for addiction therapy
  • Meets high safety standards
  • Adheres to the industry’s best-practices standards for operations and management
  • Is sensitive to diverse populations, including minorities, the elderly, LGBT, non-English speaking and other groups
  • Uses research-based interventions
  • Offers a protective, healing environment

An accredited facility will take a holistic, person-centered approach to client care. This approach, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, offers the best treatment outcomes.2

Both CARF and Joint Commission are highly regarded accreditations, and you can be sure that a facility carrying them will offer the highest quality of treatment.

Other Treatment Facility Accreditations

CARF and The Joint Commission aren’t the only recognized accreditations for addiction treatment.

Healthcare Facilities Accreditation Program treatment facility accreditations are authorized by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and indicate compliance with the Medicare Conditions of Participation and the Conditions for Coverage. HFAP is recognized by insurance companies, managed care organizations and state public health departments.

Council on Accreditation is an international accrediting organization that evaluates an organization against an industry’s current best practices. COA is recognized in 47 states, the District of Columbia, Canada and China.

International Certification & Reciprocity Consortium doesn’t accredit facilities, but rather offers credentialing for prevention, substance abuse and recovery professionals. It promotes quality and integrity in the profession and indicates that an addiction professional meets high standards for services and care.

Accreditation Is Worth Looking for

The substance abuse treatment industry, unfortunately, has some less-than-reputable players. Choosing an accredited treatment facility ensures that you won’t receive inappropriate or low-quality services or end up a pawn in an insurance fraud scheme. Choosing an accredited facility is worth it for your peace of mind, your well-being and your recovery.



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