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Learn / Rehab Center Accreditation: Does It Matter?

Rehab Center Accreditation: Does It Matter?

Ben CampBen Camp


Since 2010, Ben has been helping rehabs around the world connect with patients through the Internet, from de-addiction centers in India reaching low-income treatment seekers on their mobile phones to centers in the U.S. attracting luxury clientele.
 Published May 22nd, 2019|  Professionally Reviewed By 
Olivia Mueller

 Reviewed by Olivia Mueller on May 22, 2019

Olivia holds over 10 years of experience in the addiction treatment industry and a Master’s in Addiction Studies from King’s College London, University of Adelaide, and Virginia Commonwealth University.

If you visit the website of a rehab center in the United States, more often than not you’ll find a section dedicated to accreditations from a variety of organizations. For example, Bayside Marin in Northern California has the CARF (Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities) accreditation and the BBB (Better Business Bureau) accreditation.

Interestingly, the CARF accreditation comes from an independent non-profit organization, one that has no affiliation with regulatory or governmental bodies. Consequently, accreditation like this can be confusing.

We must ask, then: Does a rehab center accreditation matter?

A Look at Accrediting Bodies

There’s a smorgasbord of accrediting bodies that exist in the world of rehab centers. The most common are CARF and the Joint Commission. There are other accrediting bodies as well. For example, (WAATME) is an online service that aims to accredit non-pharma-funded rehab centers. The Council on Accreditation (COA), on the other hand, is a non-profit accrediting body that outlines the different standards rehab centers need to meet based on their audience. There’s also the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA), who do exactly what their name implies.

In the United States, almost all rehab centres are licensed, certified or accredited in some form.

According to the 2017 National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services, SAMHSA (the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)1 reports the following percentages by accreditation body:

Accreditation organization
CARF (Commission on Accreditation of Rehab Facilities)29 percent
Joint Commission20 percent
NCQA (National Committee for Quality Assurance)3 percent
COA (Council on Accreditation)5 percent

With so many different accrediting bodies, however, it’s difficult to understand the rigor of each one. WAATME, for example, is a service that requires a rehab center to complete “three easy steps” to become accredited. First, the center must sign a declaration confirming they aren’t funded or influenced by pharmaceutical companies, then the center must meet an ethical management evaluation (which is a short online course) and finally, they must pay an annual fee of $999 to remain accredited.

For a rehab center, an accreditation like this will add validity to their center, which in turn will drive business. But for $999 per year, is it worth paying for?

Quality Assurance Matters

According to American Addiction Centers,2 accredited treatment can keep centers accountable to have the following:

  • Person-centered approach
  • Treatment options based on research
  • Coordinated plans of care
  • Safe practices
  • Protective environments
  • Qualified staff
  • Policy and procedure standards
  • Emergency plan that meets health and safety standards
  • Documentation, critical incident reports, and emergency drills
  • Commitment to continuous quality improvement

And they’re not wrong. Despite the “three easy steps” of the WAATME process, most accrediting bodies put rehab centers through their paces and demand a high level of excellence, an excellence that is transferred to the people that matter most: the patients.

Accreditations require rehab centers to train staff to a high level and operate to the best of their ability every day, and oftentimes, they encourage rehab centers to improve upon weak areas within their operations and continue to deliver a service that exceeds the average standard.

Do Accreditations Matter?

In short: yes, accreditations do matter.

CARF, for example, requires a review of service quality as well as analysis of patient outcomes to ensure effectiveness. The Joint Commission, on the other hand, asks programs to collect data and monitor opportunities for improving performance. Both include periodic on-site evaluations.

Joint Commission or CARF, Does That Matter?

Between these two accreditation bodies, rehab centers can achieve a high level of quality assurance throughout their facility. While accreditations cannot fully guarantee quality care, a center who is accredited or actively pursing accreditation by either the Joint Commission or CARF typically demonstrates a commitment to quality and a desire to improve, learn and grow.

For a patient, it’s this level of self-awareness to do and be better that is important. It’s an assurance than can be translated into trust and when all is said and done, isn’t it trust that matters most in recovery?

To learn more, check out our carefully selected luxury treatment centers here.

  1. National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services (N-SSATS): 2017. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2017, []
  2. “Rehab Accreditation and Addiction Treatment.” Https://Americanaddictioncenters.Org/, American Addiction Centers, 28 May 2021, []

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