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First group of peer recovery service entities receives accreditation

March 12, 2014
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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A geographically and structurally diverse group of five peer recovery support service organizations have become the first such entities to receive accreditation from a body whose parent organization is Faces & Voices of Recovery.

The Council on Accreditation of Peer Recovery Support Services (CAPRSS) announced last month that all five organizations that served as test sites for its accreditation review process have received accreditation for periods ranging from one to three years. CAPRSS will begin accepting applications for accreditation from other peer recovery support organizations next month, and is still determining a precise fee structure for the process.

CAPRSS chief executive Elizabeth Burden explains that several factors have driven the move toward offering peer recovery support organizations an opportunity to be accredited. First, the tendency for more peer recovery support workers to pursue certification to demonstrate their competency fueled interest in establishing a similar mechanism for the organizations that employ them.

“Certifying the individual is one thing, but does that mean the organization they're put in is peer-authentic?” says Burden.

In addition, with the rollout of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), it is hoped that accreditation of peer recovery support service organizations will help build a stronger case for reimbursement for peer-delivered services, a factor that now depends largely on whether the state that houses the services has embraced a recovery-oriented systems of care (ROSC) approach in addiction services.

Another important motivating factor, as Faces & Voices articulated last summer when it announced the establishment of CAPRSS, is that as more treatment organizations recognize the potential of peer-delivered recovery support services, the recovery community wants to ensure that these services retain their peer-to-peer flavor over the long term and don't simply become part of an impersonal “system.”

The initial list

The five newly accredited programs are:

  • Association of Persons Affected by Addiction (APAA), which partners with local organizations in the Dallas area to offer services such as recovery coaching, telephone support, and health and wellness classes.

  • McShin Foundation, a Virginia-based recovery community organization that also emphasizes community education around reducing stigma associated with substance use disorders.

  • Minnesota Recovery Connection, which offers a wide range of peer support services and activities across the state.

  • Pennsylvania Recovery Organization Achieving Community Together (PRO-ACT), one of the longest-standing recovery community organizations and one that emphasizes as part of its advocacy work the availability of adequate treatment options.

  • Stairway to Recovery, a southeastern Massachusetts organization that is a program of the Latin American Health Institute.

Burden says that CAPRSS selected these five entities as its test sites based on diversity by geography, organizational size and populations served. “These first five are a good reflection of the types of programs that are out there,” she says.

All of these initially accredited organizations operate peer recovery support services outside the auspices of a treatment facility. There are of course a growing number of treatment centers that are establishing their own peer recovery support services as well, and Burden says she could see a point in time where a treatment center might want to pursue both accreditation of its overall facility and CAPRSS accreditation for its peer-delivered services.

Burden believes that from a service standpoint, peer recovery support largely looks similar whether it's delivered by a stand-alone organization or a treatment facility. Where the two types of programs differ rests mainly in the governance structure, she says.

Accreditation standards

CAPRSS will evaluate programs using 31 core standards that are categorized in the four domains of principles, people, practices and performance. A committee with representation from recovery support organizations, treatment centers and other sectors of the field established the standards, using as its initial guidance some principles that the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) shared with grantees under its Recovery Community Services Program (RCSP), says Burden.

The CAPRSS standards in the principles domain emphasize areas such as creating a welcoming, recovery-conducive environment and ensuring the inclusion of ethical guidelines around boundaries and confidentiality. The standards in the people area stress the importance of sound peer training and supervision, while in the area of practice the standards articulate the need for sound fiscal management and ongoing quality assessment.

Burden adds that the accreditation process will emphasize ongoing quality improvement. CAPRSS is using the term “asset-based accreditation” and is seeking to trademark it. “Accreditation is the beginning of the process, not the end,” she says.

There will be a candidacy fee and a site visit fee for applicant organizations. Burden says it is difficult to predict how many organizations will seek accreditation. There is not even precise data on how many recovery community organizations presently exist across the country, although as of last summer the Association of Recovery Community Organizations encompassed around 85 entities.

Burden says that through CAPRSS, “There will be resources for organizational improvement for organizations even if they don't apply to become accredited.”

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