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Licensure and Accreditation of Substance Abuse Treatment Programs

While licensure and accreditation may not be the first things on your mind when researching an addiction treatment facility for you or a loved one, they are some of the many tools Spectrum Health Systems uses to ensure compliance with regulations and the most current best practices. Because of the importance we place on licensure and accreditation, we asked Spectrum’s Quality Assurance team to explain the various types of licensure and accreditation Spectrum relies upon to ensure that we’re providing the best possible treatment to all our clients.

In order to operate a substance abuse treatment program, several agencies must first approve applications for various certificates, registrations and licensure required by state and/or federal laws. Aside from a typical business need for building occupancy permits, fire department certificates and public safety certificates, other local and federal agencies must also give their approval.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Bureau of Substance Abuse Services issues facility licenses to provide a specific type of treatment (i.e.; inpatient and residential, detoxification, outpatient counseling, opioid treatment, etc.) and designates a maximum number of licensed treatment beds for residential programs.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Drug Control Program issues Controlled Substances Registrations for all scheduled drugs distributed at each facility and is required wherever medication assisted treatment is provided.

In addition to the state Controlled Substances Registration, the U.S. Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Agency requires a Controlled Substances Registration Certificate.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Substance Abuse Treatment issues an Opioid Treatment Program Certification for all opioid treatment programs.

Aside from needing these certificates and licenses to operate a treatment program in Massachusetts, any time Spectrum applies to credential a facility with an insurance company in order to become an approved provider, we are required to submit all relevant licenses, certificates and accreditations.

Almost any article describing the characteristics one should look for in a substance abuse treatment programs lists “accreditation” as a sought-after feature. Accreditation means that an outside agency, other than the state, takes an in-depth look at the quality of services being provided and puts their “stamp of approval” on it. The most common accreditation programs in behavioral healthcare are the Joint Commission (formerly JCAHO) and CARF International (formerly the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities, or CARF). Spectrum Health Systems has been CARF accredited since 1998.

According to their website (www.carf.org), CARF was founded in 1966 as the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities and today, CARF International is an independent, nonprofit accreditor of health and human services in the following areas: Aging Services, Behavioral Health, Business and Services Management Networks, Child and Youth Services, Employment and Community Services and Medical Rehabilitation. They currently accredit more than 50,000 programs and services at 23,000 locations and more than 8 million persons are served annually by 6,800 CARF-accredited providers. They are known as CARF International, because accreditation extends to countries in North and South America, Europe, Asia, and Africa.

Facilities that meet CARF standards have demonstrated their commitment to being among the best treatment facilities in the world. Accrediting bodies generally have higher standards than state licensing requirements, which vary significantly from state to state. Accreditation is a rigorous process that involves a thorough review of the program’s structure, practices, clinical programming and outcomes. CARF surveyors are people who work in the field, many of whom are experts. Suggestions for improvement are often made during the review process, resulting in changes that lead to higher quality client care.

While accreditation does not always signify quality care, going through the process of becoming CARF accredited signifies an agency’s commitment to continually enhancing the quality of services provided to persons served. CARF’s hundreds of standards are rooted in current, evidence-based treatment models. Spectrum’s network of residential and outpatient facilities are visited by various external agencies on an ongoing basis to review policies and procedures, documentation, personnel, client care and customer satisfaction. The review process ensures compliance with all regulatory bodies and laws concerning client care and medical treatment. Spectrum also has an internal review process which regularly examines these same areas as well as any other standards Spectrum has set for itself in delivering the highest quality of services to individuals seeking treatment for substance abuse and/or mental health issues.

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