The addiction treatment field is constantly changing. How do you keep your organization up-to-date on the latest evidence-based practices? As more and more treatment facilities establish themselves across the country, how will you distinguish your organization?
Joint Commission (formerly JCAHO) accreditation is your organization’s ongoing commitment to provide the highest-quality care and strive for excellence. The Joint Commission’s standards of quality are internationally-accepted, and accreditation places your organization among the best in the world.
At Stodzy, we’re passionate about quality addiction treatment, and committed to marketing those options ethically. Accreditation is a step towards more effective and ethical care. If your treatment organization hasn’t been accredited by the Joint Commission yet, here’s why it’s worth considering and how to navigate the process.
What is Joint Commission Accreditation?
Formerly known as the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO), the Joint Commission is one of the largest accreditors of addiction treatment programs. Its Behavioral Health Care Accreditation program encourages safe, evidence-based practices, working towards a higher quality of care.
The accreditation standards assess certain areas of your organization’s performance, to determine where your programs, facility, and staff can improve. Those standards are based on the Joint Commission’s Comprehensive Accreditation Manual for Behavioral Health Care (CAMBHC), developed through consultations with behavioral health care experts and providers, as well as clients and their families.
The main component of accreditation is an on-site survey, typically with one surveyor who comes to a facility for 2-4 days. The surveyor looks at the different programs and services provided, conducts interviews with staff and clients, as well as assesses safety measures. Joint Commission surveyors are behavioral health care professionals themselves with hands-on expertise. Because each surveyor is trained and conducts 12-15 surveys each year, they have experience and good practices to share with your organization collaboratively.
Joint Commission accreditation is an intensive process that happens over the course of three years. It requires your time, resources, and compliance with a thorough examination. But, all of this is well-worth the improvements your organization will see–in its performance, treatment outcomes, and client satisfaction.
Who’s Eligible for Joint Commission Accreditation?
A wide variety of behavioral health organizations are eligible for accreditation–both mental health and substance abuse facilities. For most organizations, the major requirement for eligibility is that at least 3 people have already been provided care, treatment, or services, with at least 2 active at the time of initial on-site survey. For methadone detox facilities specifically, at least 3 people need to have been treated.
Why Accreditation Matters
Like any healthcare field, addiction treatment should meet certain standards of care. In order to make treatment more effective, those standards need to be evidence-based. State licensing requirements create one set of standards for treatment facilities, but accreditation can help your organization fulfill and exceed those minimum levels of safety and quality.
Accreditation advances your organization into high-end treatment and state-of-the-art services. Joint Commission accreditation is nationally renowned and offers major value to your organization:
- Accreditation sets you apart from the rest. Less than 20% of treatment programs in the U.S. are Joint Commission accredited. Over 50% have no accreditation.
- With the Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval, your organization gains credibility and gives potential clients and their families more confidence.
- Accreditation can also boost your referrals. Referral services and the general public can find you on the Quality Check website once you complete accreditation.
Improve and Strengthen your Services
- Accreditation brings your facility in line with evidence-based practices, which can improve your treatment outcomes. Surveyors also provide you with informed guidelines about further advancement.
- The process is an opportunity to educate your staff. Surveyors suggest approaches and strategies to help your organization better meet accreditation requirements, and ultimately provide the best care possible.
- Research has shown that accredited addiction treatment programs have higher organizational performance overall.
Recognition from Insurers and Other Regulatory Agencies
- Many require Joint Commission accreditation for reimbursement, or use it as a deciding factor in their agreements to work with you. Some rely on Joint Commission accreditation instead of their own accreditation surveys.
- Accreditation can reduce the cost of your liability insurance coverage by improving your organization’s risk-management efforts. There are many liability insurers that recognize Joint Commission accreditation.
Most importantly, pushing your organization to the next level through the accreditation process can increase your clients’ satisfaction and ultimate success.
How Do I Get My Facility Joint Commission Accredited?
Before you jump into the process, here are the steps to Joint Commission accreditation that you need to know:
Understand the Process
Because accreditation is a lengthy and involved process, it’s important to inform yourself about how it works. Your best resource will be the Join Commission’s website, with in-depth information about the whole process and people to contact with questions. You also have the option to register for a free informational webinar, or listen to a previously recorded one.
Review Accreditation Requirements
You can review the requirements in the Accreditation Manual which is available for purchase online. Or, you can request access to their electronic edition for a free 60-day trial. The Joint Commission’s representatives can help you determine which specific requirements will apply to your organization.
Conduct a Self-Assessment
As you learn about the requirements, see where your organization is already meeting them and where policies or procedures need to change. If you have questions, call the Joint Commission’s standards help desk: 630-792-5900.
Implement Action Plans
Use that self-assessment to make any needed changes in your organization or facilities. The Joint Commission suggests making a timeline, so you can plan to be in compliance with accreditation standards by time of your survey.
Apply for Accreditation
Once your plan of action is in place and you have a potential, workable survey date in mind, it’s time to request an application for accreditation. You can:
After your request is processed, you’ll receive an email with log-in information for the Joint Commission Connect site, where you’ll find your application. You’ll provide important information about your organization in the application, as well as indicate a preferred month for your survey. It can be up to 12 months from the time you apply.
Once your application is completed online, you need to submit it along with with a $1,700 deposit. You can submit the application without the deposit, but it will delay the scheduling of your on-site survey. The accreditation process does involve an on-site service fee and annual fees that are spread out over the 3-year cycle. But, your initial $1,700 deposit will ultimately apply towards those fees in the future.
Prepare for the On-Site Survey
The Joint Commission has resources on their website to help you every step of the way in preparation for your survey. Every applicant is assigned a Behavioral Health Care Account Executive as your primary contact. They can help you plan and schedule your survey, as well as keep you informed and answer questions throughout the process. You’ll be given at least 30 days notice before your official survey date.
On your scheduled survey date, you’ll meet the certified Joint Commission Surveyor who’s been assigned to your organization and they’ll conduct their on-site review. Throughout the review, the surveyor will offer suggestions and insights. At the end of the survey, you can access a preliminary report. Eventually, you’ll be given a more detailed report that outlines which areas are in compliance with accreditation standards and which need improvement.
The Joint Commission also has an Early Survey Policy, which allows you to opt for your survey to be spread out between two separate on-site visits. For a new organization, this option gives you time to bring your business operations in compliance with accreditation standards, before serving any clients. For established organizations, these two stages offer more intensive consultation and education.
Complete Any Remaining Improvements
If further changes are requested after your survey, take measures to resolve them and report to your Account Executive. Typically, you’ll be given 45 days to implement those changes.
Share Your New Status
Once accreditation is granted, it’s time to share your new status. You’ll want potential clients and referral services to know, as well as your liability insurer. The Joint Commission also has a publicity kit to help you showcase your accreditation.
Stay in Compliance
Accreditation is an ongoing process, so another survey will be conducted 3 years after the initial survey to ensure your organization is up-to-date. If you stick to the accreditation requirements and the recommendations that are given, your next survey should go smoothly.
Accreditation is an opportunity to distinguish your organization with world-class treatment services. It’s a chance to work collaboratively, learn from other treatment professionals, and raise your organization to a higher plane of care. If you’re interested in Joint Commission accreditation, you can head over to their website for more information.