How to Tell if the Facility You’re Dealing with is Ethical

Evaluating ethical standards

Due diligence means asking questions on multiple channels: Talking to colleagues, facility alumni, checking accreditations and memberships, reading reviews and searching individual provider names for disciplinary histories.

When we’re seeking a new facility for a client in need, or dealing with a provider you haven’t worked with before, you worry whether your client will really get what they need. Is this facility safe? Will they provide what they promise? Finding ways to evaluate a facility is important to your client care, and in this article we look at a few resources that can help you in the process.

You can look to see if the facility is a member of The National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP). NAATP is a values-forward professional association, and as such its membership is not only peer monitored but self-selected. Out of more than 25,000 facilities in the US, NAATP membership is 3000.

There are also organizations which serve to audit facilities according to guidelines and standards which – again – are voluntary, but vital. Look for certifications from The Joint Commission (JCAHO), which certifies healthcare facilities under different subheadings, or The Commission on the Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities ( CARF), a smaller and more specialized umbrella. Both JCAHO and CARF have strict criteria that cover not only the clinical side but how the facility is actually run. i.e. housekeeping, maintenance of the grounds, employment practices, financial practice, and quality insurance.

To be in good standing with JCAHO and CARF, a facility passes an initial evaluation and are accredited for limited times, with a standard audit process for recertification.

The GET HELP® Council of Standards is based on these programs and is cultivating a broad, holistic standard of care that nurtures continued improvement. We hope that within our ecosystem providers work together not only to enforce standards but to improve them, and to collaborate on improving best practices across the ecosystem. Just as a rising tide lifts all boats, we know that a rising standard improves our industry and our outcomes for the clients who need us most.

If a facility is not proudly displaying its accreditation, it probably doesn’t have one. If a facility is unaccredited, there is no reason to believe that it is ethical. We know that sober housing initiatives are popping up like mushrooms, and that treatment providers across the country come and go – at every level of care and cost.

Sober living coalitions are emerging as well-intentioned providers coming together to create supportive and transitional living facilities that are safe, clean, well-managed and ethically supervised. Because these co-ops are small – and because there is no legal obligation to participate – it is likely that those who do are trying just a little harder to ensure the best for their clients.

You may also want to do a few quick searches regarding the clinical staff. Look at leadership and some of the front-line clinical staff to ensure that their professional reputations are consistent with the reputation of the facility as a whole. Just as you might ask whether a surgeon has a malpractice history before you commit to an operation, you want to look into treatment providers to ensure they are people to whom you want to trust a client.

It sounds silly, but internet reviews can be surprisingly revealing. You may want to read skeptically, thinking many people who write reviews do so from a strong motivation, and often they are angry. Treatment isn’t always effective, and we know that frustrated clients don’t always reflect the reality of a treatment modality. But they can offer us some strong clues about how a provider does business and where problems tend to arise.

Due diligence means asking questions on multiple channels. Talking to colleagues, facility alumni (where available), checking accreditations and memberships, reading reviews and searching individual provider names for disciplinary histories is a good start.

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