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A personal accreditation experience

February 7, 2012
by Scott Proctor, PhD
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A Utah center finds The Joint Commission’s process less prescriptive than expected

Recovery Ways is a residential substance abuse treatment center located in the greater Salt Lake City, Utah area. After four years of research, our organization was formally established in 2009 with the mission to “provide the most cost-effective substance abuse treatment possible, making it accessible to as many people as possible, with the best of professional staff, to produce positive patient outcome results.” All professionals associated with our facility share and practice this mission.

Recovery Ways’ substance abuse rehabilitation experience occurs in a home-like atmosphere and focuses on helping residents create balance in their lives. The program helps clients get to know themselves and their disease of addiction, understand how they got to where they are, decide where they want to go, and learn the tools that will help them get to where they want to be and to stay there.

Non-classroom activities play an important role in the rehabilitation process, with physical and recreational activities incorporated into the program to help the body with the detoxification process. These activities provide positive growth experiences that clients can turn to as an alternative to substance abuse.

Commitment to quality

Recovery Ways spent considerable time and money developing its treatment program, as well as on our facility—built with input from professionals such as therapists, physicians, psychiatrists, psychologists, behavioral hospital maintenance professionals, security professionals, interior designers and even restaurant owners and chefs. Accreditation constituted a logical next step in living the mission.

Specifically, we decided to pursue accreditation for the following reasons:

  • The industry is scattered with many participants of diverse backgrounds, objectives, beliefs and professional skills. Accreditation would set our organization apart from others by offering independent evidence of our commitment to meeting high performance standards.
  • We needed an evolving framework of quality assurance. Again, an independent framework that met our mission statement would be best in spirit and in practice.
  • We wanted to communicate to stakeholders, payers, state and federal authorities, and other third parties that we stand for excellence by aligning our center with established standards of excellence within the industry.
  • The cost of continuously staying informed of industry change, new research, and new laws and regulations was formidable. Sharing the costs of such activities among like-minded professionals in an accrediting organization was obviously more cost-effective over time.

Organization choice

Prior to comparing The Joint Commission with CARF and other accrediting organizations, I asked numerous doctors, rehabilitation providers and therapists for their opinions on accreditors. After listening to many different points of view, I could only conclude that the information was inconsistent and not always based on facts. Our center decided that a detailed fact comparison approach (based on our mission statement, goals and objectives) constituted our best strategy.

In authoring this article, I believe my role is to suggest an approach for others considering accreditation, rather than presenting my detailed findings for each area I analyzed. In order to find out what is right for your organization, I believe you must follow this protocol or develop your own organized approach to come to a decision that is right for you. I am very glad I did my review because the varied opinions of others were unclear and more often inaccurate than accurate. I spent a few days of detailed comparative analysis looking at every aspect of relevance to our center.

The decision to be accredited and the choice of organization is a bit like the decision to get married. It has an impact on your future day-to-day management and practices from the decision day as your organization grows and changes over time. You need to decide if you want to get married and to whom, based on your criteria—not your associates’ opinions.

We compared many aspects of accreditation such as required standards; effective date of first audit compliance; recognition by state authorities, insurance payers and the public; resources to help us through the process; routines and reporting subsequent to the initial audit; and costs (including current and future fees as well as costs of internal time related to ongoing compliance).

For our purposes, the decision was clear: We wanted to align with The Joint Commission because of its reputation for excellence, the consultative and professional nature of its suppliers, and its willingness to help us through the accreditation process. We have never looked back.

Preparation for accreditation

Our Joint Commission accreditation preparation process began with a detailed comparison of Joint Commission standards and our organization’s policies, procedures and practices. This process brought to light one of the areas of key importance to us, which was in line with our existing policies: the process of thinking. Our manual used phrases such as “if it makes sense in the circumstances,” “if appropriate,” “in your professional opinion,” “based upon your professional judgment,” and so on. Upon review of Joint Commission standards, we found this concept of “thinking” was similar to what was in our manuals.

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Recovery Ways claims to be one of the top rehabs in the country, however there is little that would make my experience of sending my fiancee to them worse than it already is.
For starters, the moment she got there the oh so helpful person we spoke to on the phone was unreachable. Then she gets a therapist who I swear had an IQ lower than that of my dog, so she switches to another therapist who happened to be a male therapist named mike, who proceeded to assume that my fiancees relationship with her co-dependent mother was healthy and that her relationship with me was not. This couldnt be further from the truth as I am the one who sent her to get help.
Her time at recovery ways was extremely stressful for me as there was not one ounce of support sent my way. Her therapist apparently told a male client something inappropriate regarding the appearance of my fiancee when they were at the movies and if I did not live across the country I would have confronted him.
This rehab ignored the fact that I had a release of information signed for me and refused to keep me updated about her. If you need to speak with whoever is in charge, good luck, theres no way of even finding out who actually is in charge.
They are supposed to show the ways of life to people, and instead of setting a good example they lie lie lie. They also manipulate and tell families to cut off clients unless the client agrees to go to their halfway houses and IOP programs.
I also wonder how any of the clients are supposed to get any work done while on the phone on a daily basis. I thought rehab was supposed to cut people off from the distractions of the outside life, but not at recovery ways.
Most concerning, their psychiatrist suggested suboxone maintenance. Suboxone is an extremely addictive narcotic, so this place tries to switch one addiction for another and have their clients leaving with a prescription to suboxone and a whole new drug addiction. Avoid at all costs.

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