Commentary: 5 Essential Tips to Finding Quality Addiction Treatment
September 7, 2017byBradley F. Sorte - Executive Director, Caron Renaissance & Ocean Drive
What would you do if you or a loved one was diagnosed with cancer? You’d want the best treatment available for a potentially fatal disease. You’d read literature from organizations such as the Mayo Clinic, speak to experts in the field, and find doctors and hospitals with outcome-based track records. You wouldn’t head to the first practice that pops up on a Google search.
The same steps should be taken with any behavioral health diagnosis, such as addiction. Addiction is a chronic disease as defined by the American Medical Association. And unfortunately, it’s become one of the top killers in the country. We are in a national state of emergency because of the current opioid crisis that leaves 142 people dead each day. Tragically, there are facilities taking advantage of this epidemic to exploit patients. So, when you’re evaluating a potential addiction treatment provider – it’s important to do your homework. Don’t lose hope – there are high quality treatment programs that are saving lives every day. Instead, arm yourself with knowledge as you would with any other life-threatening medical condition.
We recommend starting by learning about addiction. Refer to leading organizations such as the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA), the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP), and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Once you have a firm grasp on it, you can begin the search for a quality treatment provider. Here’s what to look for:
Licensing and accreditation. Ensuring that providers you’re considering are legitimate is an essential first step. One way to accomplish this is to ensure that the facility you are considering has been licensed by the appropriate state agency which oversees behavioral health facilities. You can speak to them to learn more about their regulations. It may indicate a higher quality of care if the center is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) or The Joint Commission (JACHO) and licensed by their State Department of Health. We encourage you to take a more in-depth look – but holding both an accreditation and a license is it good start to selecting a center. Licensing and accreditations should be located on a centers’ website. Consider also seeking third-party feedback from alumni and therapeutic referents who have no financial ties to the organization.
Patient-centered, individualized treatment. Treatment is not one-size-fits-all, so look for a wealth of diversity in a program. Larger organizations will typically cater to a variety of demographics. For example, they have unique programs designed to treat a 65-year-old man addicted to prescription pills, a 25-year-old-girl with a heroin addiction, and a lawyer suffering with alcoholism. Treating patients by age, substance of choice, co-occurring disorders (such as anxiety or chronic pain), and even by profession can make a difference in an individual’s longer-term recovery. Additionally, well-trained and credentialed clinicians, including on-staff and on-site physicians, are critical to providing quality care.
Clinical admissions process. The level of sophistication of a program’s admission process says a lot about the program. It should be conducted by an addiction professional, and focused on the patient’s history, assessment of the family, their psychological and social perspective, and more. Admissions should not be centered on payer type or availability. A huge red flag is a center offering any type of incentive to enroll, such as covering travel expenses or offering large discounts. Would you go to a hospital offering free perks as part of a heart disease admittance? Probably not. The same good judgment should apply to this sector of healthcare.
Evidence-based programs. Recognized evidenced-based practices such as Motivational Interviewing and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy are proven to be effective. Treatment facilities should have a way to incorporate new practices and treatments and should also be willing to define how they measure their outcomes.
Emphasis on continuum of care. Addiction is a chronic disease requiring monitoring and management for the rest of the patient’s life. If the center you’re looking at doesn’t offer a strong after-treatment plan, then it’s focused on acute treatment and not long-term recovery. Their plan should be multi-faceted, covering everything from family involvement, outside resources, and most critically, a guide to step-down programming all the way through after care and into continuing outpatient treatment. Today, the medical community has more resources than ever. The role of technology can be life altering for those in after care. From tele-medicine for remote treatment to mobile apps for networking and monitoring, a quality treatment center will use technology in some form to manage post-treatment planning.
Finding the right treatment for yourself or a loved one can be an overwhelming process, so don’t be afraid to ask for help. Your primary care physician, psychological professionals, and others in your community are standing by to help. Quality treatment can transform the lives of individuals and their families. Entering a reputable program that fits the patient’s needs is the first step to a healthy and productive life.