Five Reasons for Substance Use Treatment Providers to Become Accredited

Substance use disorder treatment providers have many reasons to seek national accreditation and to benefit from this process. Whether seeking accreditation from The Joint Commission, CARF International, Council on Accreditation (a division of Social Current), Accreditation Commission for Health Care (ACHC), or other, here are 5 top reasons to become accredited:

Reason #1 – Promotes Quality Treatment in a Safe and Healthy Environment

An external survey of quality and safety conducted by well-trained professional accrediting body surveyors provides reassurance and builds trust for the individual, family, or referral source seeking a treatment resource. The accreditation hallmark distinguishes a treatment resource as going beyond minimum state licensing standards. Accrediting bodies promote accredited organizations on their websites so that parents, individuals, and healthcare professionals can easily identify treatment resources with the accreditation hallmark of distinction.

Reason #2 – Strengthens Business Practices

Accreditation standards address ethical marketing practices, require transparency in plans and policies, look for actions taken based on staff and consumer feedback, and promotes equity in treatment based on the person’s needs.

Reason #3 – Standardizes Administrative and Clinical Processes

Accreditation supports consistent delivery of good care to every consumer. It requires a multi-dimensional assessment (best practice) so that each consumer is receiving exactly the care and treatment needed by competent and qualified staff. The standardization of processes provides a framework for increasing service capacity, allowing for expansion of levels of care, new programs and services, and treatment at additional locations.

Reason #4 – Expands Reimbursement Options

Accreditation is increasingly being used as an indicator of quality by third-party payers as a condition of substance use treatment payment approval. Private, commercial insurance companies, and managed care entities require accreditation to become an “approved” provider. The accreditation hallmark of quality and safety may also result in more diversified referral sources as healthcare professionals recognize the organization’s commitment to quality and safety.

Reason #5 – Supports Efficient and Effective Billing

Being reimbursed in a timely manner is a critical business practice component for any substance use treatment provider. The clinical documentation required by accrediting bodies supports and justifies admissions (medical necessity of services), level of care, treatment interventions, continued stay/treatment, and transfer or discharge. This type of clinical documentation reduces denials of reimbursement or provides the documentation needed for appeals of denials.

The results of a recent study of Joint Commission accredited organizations by ROI Institute supports National Accreditation and identifies returns on accreditation investment.

If you are ready to reap the benefits of accreditation for your organization, or if you have questions about the process, please contact us.

 

For more information or questions about the contents of this article, please write or call Peggy Lavin @ Peggy@AccreditationGuru.com / 847.219.1296.

This post contains original content and was written for Accreditation Guru, Inc. Use of this copy is permitted with credit and reference within the same body of copy to Accreditation Guru, Inc.

Convenient, Informative Webinars Help Answer Your Questions About Accreditation

Part of our vision at Accreditation Guru is to inform and support organizations that are seeking accreditation. As part of that mission, we were thrilled to co-host a webinar with BestNotes, a healthcare IT software and consulting firm, to explain the accreditation process to their customers.

Many different factors can prompt an organization to pursue accreditation. These drivers may come from internal decisions, such as a commitment to quality and safety, or a desire to attract high-quality employees. Others may be external, such as regulatory or reimbursement requirements.

There are many advantages to accreditation that vary depending on the organization or the accrediting body. In general, some of the biggest advantages include:

  • Improvements to quality and safety
  • Risk reductions
  • Improvements to service delivery
  • Better documentation of organizational plans, policies, and procedures
  • Creating a specific plan to go “above and beyond”

A portion of Accreditation Guru’s webinar with BestNotes examined the similarities and differences between two accrediting bodies: CARF International and The Joint Commission. We compared fee structures, accreditation timelines, the scope of accreditation, and how long it lasts. Webinar attendees were better equipped to decide which accrediting body to partner with.

We specifically focused on these two organizations because they were the most relevant to BestNotes’ customers, which primarily included behavioral health and substance use disorder treatment providers. However, Accreditation Guru has experience with a variety of other accrediting bodies.

Because BestNotes is an electronic health record (EHR) software provider, we specifically discussed how an EHR can help behavioral health organizations prepare for accreditation and maintain compliance afterward. This includes encouraging better documentation, collecting and analyzing data, and making billing more efficient.

We always recommend that behavioral health providers implementing an EHR system do so as soon as possible when pursuing accreditation. This will give staff plenty of time to learn the software and give the organization time to troubleshoot any issues. This helps the provider prepare for accreditation more effectively and reap the benefits of an effective EHR.

During this webinar, we were able to share specific, relevant insights learned from our years of experience with the accreditation process. We explained some of Accreditation Guru’s additional services, including strategic planning, board development and training, risk assessment, and project management. We concluded the webinar with a Q&A segment for all participants.

“BestNotes was happy to partner with Accreditation Guru to present this webinar to our customers,” says Jon Winther, MBA, Chief Marketing Officer at BestNotes. “A lot of our customers are behavioral health providers in their ‘startup’ stage and just beginning to explore their accreditation options. Accreditation Guru shared information tailored to their specific needs, in an easy to understand format, with plenty of time for questions at the end. Our customers really appreciated the insights and felt better prepared to pursue accreditation for their facilities.”

Accreditation Guru has hosted similar webinars with other IT companies, insurance brokers, and billing companies. In each case, our webinar is tailored to the audience, providing relevant information for their specific accreditation process.

Interested in partnering with Accreditation Guru, or co-hosting a webinar for your own customers? We’d love to talk to you about how best to answer their questions and share expertise that can guide them on their accreditation journey. To learn more, get in touch with Peggy Lavin, LCSW, Director of Behavioral Marketing at Peggy@AccreditationGuru.com today!

How Accreditation Supports Recovery Principles

The national accrediting bodies have been among the moving forces in the integration of the recovery model into the care, treatment and services for people with mental health and/or substance use disorders. Recovery principles can now be seen throughout behavioral health standards of accrediting bodies as well as the outlined expectations that an organization will demonstrate conformance/compliance to these standards. And, the integration makes sense – this model not only complements the more traditional model of medication and “talk” therapies, but also expands the focus to include the person’s own goals and strengths and empowers them to be actively involved in the process.

The US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) has also integrated the recovery model in their publications, requirements for certified community-based behavioral health clinics, training materials, and grants. To that end – they’ve developed the Working Definition of Recovery. Several of the guiding principles shown here are addressed in the accrediting bodies’ standards.

Accrediting bodies’ implementation of such a model involves workforce training so that staff can fully understand and embody the organization’s philosophy, thus permeating service delivery to positively impact the recovery of the people served.  In addition, the accreditation survey process itself supports the recovery principles. Surveyor(s) not only review written documents, but also observe interactions amongst staff at all levels and persons served and share their observations with the organization. This external survey can confirm, enhance, and strengthen the organization’s intent and commitment to recovery principles

While accreditation as a whole supports the recovery model, below are specific examples of ways in which accreditation and the recovery model intersect:

Person-Driven – An individualized plan of care, treatment, and services based on the needs, strengths and abilities, preferences/expectations and goals of each person being provided care, treatment or services is a core accreditation requirement. “Boiler plate” plans that repeat over and over the same information for each person served will result in survey findings (unsatisfactory conformance/noncompliance with standards) and the need for correction to achieve full accreditation. Furthermore, it’s an expectation that an accredited organization actively involve the person served in identifying their needs and preferences for aftercare and, as much as possible, making choices about where, type, and by whom.

Holistic – The needs of the person in relation to various life domains, such as physical health and housing, are addressed in case management/care coordination standards (assessment of the person’s needs and assistance in meeting these identified life domain needs). Since access to routine and needed physical health care can be a challenge for those who need it, the accrediting bodies offer options for the integration/coordination of physical health care. Health Home standards have been established to facilitate successful integration of physical health care with an organization’s traditional behavioral health programs.

Culture and Respect – Accreditation standards emphasize that the person served encounters respect in all aspects of their care, treatment, or service experience and this is reflected in the organization’s policies, procedures, rules, and expectations as well as the rights and responsibilities of the person served. Standards clearly emphasize that service delivery is provided by staff in an atmosphere of respect and understanding and sensitivity to cultural values, beliefs, and preferences.

Trauma – The approach of the accrediting bodies to trauma centers around their screening and assessment, planning and delivery of services, and workforce training standards. Standards require a screening and assessment process to identify people whose lived experiences either currently and/or in the past may have included trauma(s). Also, organizations need to demonstrate that the impact of trauma on the person served is considered in the planning and delivery of care, treatment, or services.

Peer Support – Peer support services are an important component of the recovery model. These services are part of the plan of care, treatment, or services, and are provided by trained individuals who share similar lived experiences with mental health and substance use challenges. Accrediting bodies not only recognize the utilization of this type of service by mental health and substance use treatment providers, but also have developed standards addressing the integration of these services into the planning of care with the active involvement of the person served.

The accrediting bodies require written plans, policies, or procedures promoting these recovery principles to form a framework for implementation and a communication to staff and people served of the philosophy, beliefs, and values of an organization.

For more information on the recovery model and/or how accreditation can benefit your organization, visit AccreditationGuru.com.

 

For more information or questions about the contents of this article, please write or call Jennifer Flowers @ Jennifer@AccreditationGuru.com / 212.209.0240.   This post contains original content and was written for Accreditation Guru, Inc. Use of this copy is permitted with credit and reference within the same body of copy to Accreditation Guru, Inc.

What is Accreditation?

Accreditation is a review process to determine if human service, healthcare or educational programs demonstrate their ability to meet defined standards of quality. Once achieved, accreditation is not permanent—it is renewed periodically to ensure that quality is maintained.

Requirements differ per accrediting body, but the intent remains the same: to validate an organization’s commitment to meeting accreditation standards that result in a higher level of performance. Accreditation standards have been researched, vetted and field-tested and are updated regularly, as necessary.

Earning accreditation specifies that the organization (or specific program) is appropriately managing its resources and is continually providing the highest levels of service to its clients and stakeholders. Being accredited provides credibility and helps validate and improve the safety and quality of care an organization provides.

Organizations need to demonstrate conformance with the accrediting body’s requirements by implementing the accreditation standards and undergoing an onsite survey or, more recently due to the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual review.

For human service and healthcare organizations, the broad purposes of accreditation are to establish quality measurement criteria and to raise the level of services and professionalism within a given profession or industry (QUALITY) and to ensure services are delivered in a safe manner and in a safe environment (SAFETY).

Becoming accredited offers organizations professional recognition for meeting the highest standards in quality service delivery while providing clients with an appropriate tool for effectively evaluating service providers. Organizations that achieve accreditation have reached beyond the minimum licensing standards and made a long-term commitment to strong management, program consistency, outcome measurements and continuous improvement throughout their agencies.

Accreditation standards address such areas as:

  • Leadership and governance
  • Financial controls
  • Facilities security and safety
  • Workforce development – recruiting, hiring practices, background checks, performance appraisals, training and supervision
  • Performance measurement and improvement
  • Client rights and confidentiality
  • Program administration and service delivery

With all of the needed information in-hand during a survey, the accrediting body will determine whether accreditation has been earned and, if so, will accredit the organization accordingly.

The entire process may take anywhere from 12 to 18 months to complete. For behavioral health and social service organizations, accreditation is valid for 3 or 4 years and there is another full survey at the end of each accreditation cycle.

While accreditation is generally a private (non-governmental), voluntary process, it is often a significant decision-making consideration by potential clients, individual donors, foundations, governmental funding agencies, and billing and private insurance companies.

Here are just a few of the businesses and nonprofits that value the benefits of maintaining accreditation within their respective industries:

  • Mental healthcare and substance use treatment facilities
  • Service providers for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities
  • Foster care and adoption agencies
  • Group homes/residential treatment for children and youth
  • Early childhood education centers and day care providers
  • Hospitals
  • Nursing homes and assisted living facilities
  • Medical laboratories and blood banks
  • Credit counseling agencies
  • Colleges and universities – must be accredited by one of the federally-recognized accreditors for students to be eligible for U.S. federal student aid
  • Continuing education providers
  • Museums
  • Aquariums and zoos – Accreditation from angelfish to zebras!

More often than not, many people don’t realize how often accreditation actually touches their lives. Accreditation is everywhere!

If you are ready to explore how accreditation could be a benefit to your organization or if you have questions about the process, please contact us.

For more information or questions about the contents of this article, please write or call Jennifer Flowers @ Jennifer@AccreditationGuru.com / 212.209.0240.   This post contains original content and was written for Accreditation Guru, Inc. Use of this copy is permitted with credit and reference within the same body of copy to Accreditation Guru, Inc.

10 Steps to Selecting an Accrediting Body

Selecting a national accrediting body is a significant commitment for an organization that goes beyond the initial accreditation cycle. In most cases, it continues for many years, often for decades. Because of the investment in time, money and effort involved, the selection process should not be taken lightly.

Accrediting Bodies

Child and family service agencies and behavioral healthcare organizations overwhelmingly choose from three main accrediting bodies: CARF International, Council on Accreditation (COA) and the Joint Commission (formerly known as JCAHO). Each accrediting body emphasizes the critical elements of performance improvement, risk reduction, financial controls, client rights, and health and safety for staff and individuals served. And each also conducts an onsite survey[1] to determine the organization’s level of compliance with the accreditation standards. However, there are significant differences between the three that impact the process and determine their “fit” with an organization.

Choosing an Accrediting Body

So, how do organizations choose between the accrediting bodies? Here are 10 key steps to help with the selection process:

  1. Determine if the accrediting bodies being considered are approved by federal or state authorities to meet your organization’s applicable mandates or recognitions.
  2. Check partner or “sister” organizations for accreditation status and decide if it would be helpful for all to use the same accrediting body.
  3. Look for any potential mergers or acquisitions on the horizon.
  4. Determine if your organization is medically based or looking for partnerships or referrals from the physical healthcare market.
  5. Determine the direct accreditation costs. Each accrediting body will be happy to give you an estimate.
  6. Determine if your goal is to accredit a specific program or service or all your programs/services.
  7. Know your baseline — Take Accreditation Guru’s free Accreditation Readiness Assessment online at https://accreditationguru.com.
  8. Obtain and review the accreditation standards from each accrediting body.
  9. Check with your payers (Medicaid, private commercial insurances, Title IV-E for QRTPs) to verify which accrediting body is approved for reimbursement.
  10. Contact accredited entities providing similar programs/services or other accredited members of any national or state association that you are a member of and ask for the pros and cons of their accrediting body.

Once these steps have been completed, you should have a better understanding of which accrediting body is suited for your organization. Then the real fun of preparing for accreditation can begin!

For assistance navigating the road to national accreditation or if you would like to discuss which accrediting body would be the best fit for your organization, please contact us at info@accreditationguru.com or 212-945-8504.

Best of luck!

[1] During the recent COVID-19 pandemic, the accrediting bodies moved to their own virtual survey method. At the writing of this article, they are presently conducting a mix of onsite, virtual and hybrid visits.

Accreditation – A Bedrock of Risk Management

When insurance companies are considering coverage for an organization, they are generally looking for those that can demonstrate high performance in risk prevention, safety, quality, outcomes, and qualified and competent staff. Accreditation standards often drive good practices in these same areas, particularly with risk management and performance improvement. Thus, the accreditation status of an organization can be indicative of the frequency and severity of costly claims.

Dan Rains, CSP, ARM, Risk Control Manager for Berkley Human Services, offers insight, “Accreditation speaks volumes about the quality of an organization. It demonstrates commitment to a continuous improvement culture with data-driven quality assurance processes and visionary leadership. These are all things that are important from an underwriting perspective which can have long term impact on losses and total cost of risk.”

Sean Conaboy, MSW, MPA, Insurance advisor with NSM Insurance Brokers, Behavioral Healthcare/Human Services Practice provides additional insight. “Insurance companies are interested in how an organization mitigates its risks, and one sound mitigation strategy is national accreditation. That’s why the first questions on an insurance application are regarding both licensure and type of accreditation.”

Accreditation as a Risk Reduction Strategy

By shifting an organization from a reactive stance after an adverse event to an ongoing proactive risk management approach, accreditation can become the bedrock for effective risk control and mitigation. The standards and survey process of accreditation guides an organization in a process of identifying and assessing actual and potential risks as well as implementing activities to prevent occurrence and to reduce severity should there be an occurrence.  Connaboy agrees, “When an applicant for insurance notes that they are accredited by a national accrediting body, the underwriter reviewing the application can assume that the organization has a strong infrastructure based on sound risk control activities and practices. At the end of the day, insurance companies want to know how well-run an organization is – and being accredited provides the framework for a well-run organization.”

Additionally, legal conformance and regulatory compliance are universal, risk-reducing requirements of all accrediting bodies. Accrediting organizations also encourage and assist organizations to go beyond what is regulated and strive for a higher level of quality and safety through a continuous improvement process that incorporates monitoring the effectiveness of risk reduction activities as well as outcomes achieved.

Risk Exposures and Controls

Risk exposures and controls are addressed in a variety of ways during the accreditation process, notably in standards and in areas addressed during the onsite survey. Below are some examples of the high-risk exposure areas and controls that may be used to mitigate the exposure.

Risk: Transporting Clients/Persons Served

Control Examples:

  • Criteria for authorizing drivers
  • Use of vehicle telematics
  • Appropriate safety restraints and adequate passenger supervision

Risk: Abuse/Molestation

Control Examples:

  • Zero-tolerance policies/Culture of safety
  • Criminal background and reference checks
  • Mandated reporting policy/procedures

Risk: Cyber Attack

Control Examples:

  • Initial and periodic staff training on cybersecurity
  • Policies and procedures addressing staff use of computers and passwords (remote access)
  • Software protection of information
  • Updating computers and backup/recovery procedures

Risk: Lack of Qualified/Competent Staff

Control Examples:

  • Policies and procedures for verification of credentials
  • Oversight and supervision of staff
  • Staff training
  • Written job descriptions linking duties/responsibilities to qualifications/competencies

Effective risk controls also include emergency response preparedness. An accredited agency is usually required to have a written disaster plan including, if applicable, evacuation and relocation of staff and clients, as well as specific plans to meet the needs of individuals with disabilities and other special needs during emergencies. The organization must also address coordination with governmental authorities and emergency responders.

Accreditation and the Risk Management Model

The standard risk management model includes identification, analysis, evaluation, and mitigation of risk. Accreditation can help organizations to identify risks they perhaps have not thought about, such as requiring a possible potential disaster be used in an emergency management plan. Requirements to conduct a risk assessment help organizations analyze and evaluate risks to determine how severe or costly they might be and can help identify risk controls to mitigate the risk. Additionally, accreditation helps organizations to reduce or mitigate risk through standard compliance in key areas, such as safety standards, fire code compliance, IT data management, human resources policies, emergency planning, and more.

How Can Accreditation Guru Help?

Although reducing risks is common with accreditation, there are differences in the risk management/risk reduction requirements between the accrediting bodies. Please feel free to contact us to learn more about the differences in risk management standards across the national accrediting bodies.

In addition to helping organizations achieve their accreditation goals, Accreditation Guru’s consulting team is also available to assess your organization’s risk management/risk reduction processes. Our service includes a holistic, systemic assessment of your risk management process or an assessment of one or more specific critical risk exposures.

 

For more information or questions about the contents of this article, please write or call Jennifer Flowers @ Jennifer@AccreditationGuru.com / 212.209.0240.   This post contains original content and was written for Accreditation Guru, Inc. Use of this copy is permitted with credit and reference within the same body of copy to Accreditation Guru, Inc.

Accreditation – A Solid Foundation for a CCBHC

The Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC) model has seen rapid uptake in the last decade because it improves the quality of life for individuals with behavioral health needs. It does this by improving community-based access to behavioral healthcare, regardless of an individual’s ability to pay, which is important. Studies have shown that, in the U.S., one in five adults have a mental illness, but fewer than half received treatment in the past year. In addition, individuals with behavioral health needs often have poor physical health outcomes due to a lack of physical health care access, so the CCBHC model integrates and coordinates physical health services for this population. In order to meet this mission, CCBHCs receive enhanced Medicaid funding that allows them to provide more services as well as services that are not always reimbursed, like community outreach and partnerships.

In 2002, eight community mental health clinics formed the first CCBHC pilot. The number of CCBHCs has now grown to over 400 operating in 40 states. More states are considering adopting this model now that the program has gone nationwide. “Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics help connect Americans to easy-to-access, comprehensive mental health and substance use disorder treatment and supports in their own communities,” said Miriam E. Delphin-Rittmon, Ph.D., the U.S. Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use and the leader of SMAHSA.

But becoming a CCBHC can be complex. Agencies may need to expand services and hours, hire staff, and determine how and where to integrate physical health care into their operations so they have the capabilities they need to meet the qualifications. CCBHCs are nonprofit organizations or units of a local government behavioral health authority, including tribal government. They must directly provide (or contract with partner organizations to provide) nine types of services, with an emphasis on the provision of 24-hour crisis care and substance use disorder treatment, use of evidence-based practices, care coordination with local primary care and hospital partners, and integration with physical health care.

Some of the key expectations for certified community behavioral health clinics are closely aligned with the accreditation requirements of the national accrediting bodies. These include:

  • Advancing integration of behavioral and physical health care
  • Coordination of care, treatment and services through care coordination/case management
  • Delivering services based on individualized plan of care/treatment by well-trained, competent staff who match culturally/linguistically to the population(s) served
  • Providing patient-centered, trauma-informed, recovery-oriented best practices in their care, treatment and services
  • Enhancing quality to improve outcomes for individuals served
  • Collecting, reporting, and tracking data
  • Continuous quality improvement.

Because national accreditation requirements contain standards of care for addressing these same CCBHC criteria, achieving and maintaining accreditation with Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care (AAAHC) CARF International (CARF), Council on Accreditation (COA), or the The Joint Commission can provide a solid foundation for a  behavioral health care clinic’s journey as a CCBHC. Through compliance with accreditation requirements, organizations will have a roadmap to follow for addressing many key CCBHC components. These areas are then assessed by surveyors/reviewers during on-site or virtual site visits, providing validation of good practices and potential feedback that can generate further enhancements.

Recognizing this solid foundation, SAMHSA encourages accreditation for a CCBHC by an appropriate, nationally recognized organization such as AAHC, CARF, COA, or The Joint Commission. SAMHSA’s intent for a CCBHC is to improve access to and quality of mental health and addiction care, treatment and services for all persons in need. This intent is reflected in the mission of each of the national accrediting bodies: AAAHC, CARF, COA, and The Joint Commission.

Accreditation Guru has experts who can provide consulting to assist organizations throughout the CCBHC accreditation/reaccreditation process. Recently, AG was proud to partner with BestSelf Behavioral Health, a CCBHC, in their achievement of accreditation through COA. BestSelf provides outpatient, integrated behavioral and physical health care using evidence-based practices. Its programs and services include education and vocational supports, mobile mental health and substance use disorder services, homeless outreach and housing, community and school-based programs, and coordination with law enforcement and medical, mental health and child protection professionals. “COA accreditation has allowed BestSelf to focus on quality and maintain best practices as well as operate our Opioid Treatment Program,” says Rebecca S. Steffen LCSW-R, Vice President of Quality Improvement & Accreditation.

We would love to discuss your clinic’s accreditation needs, click here to contact us.

  1. The National Council for Mental Wellbeing, CCBHC Success Center, 2021 Impact Report, https://www.thenationalcouncil.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/2021-CCBHC-Impact-Report.pdf?daf=375ateTbd56 (October, 2021)
  2. National Alliance on Mental Illness, Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics, https://www.nami.org/Advocacy/Policy-Priorities/Improving-Health/Certified-Community-Behavioral-Health-Clinics (October, 2021)
  3. The National Council for Mental Wellbeing, CCBHC Success Center CCBHC Overview, Success Center, CCBHC Overview, https://www.thenationalcouncil.org/ccbhc-success-center/ccbhcta-overview (October, 2021)
  4. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Criteria for the Demonstration Program to Improve Community Mental Health Centers and to Establish Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics https://www.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/programs_campaigns/ccbhc-criteria.pdf (October, 2021)

For more information or questions about the contents of this article, please write or call Jennifer Flowers @ Jennifer@AccreditationGuru.com / 212.209.0240.   This post contains original content and was written for Accreditation Guru, Inc. Use of this copy is permitted with credit and reference within the same body of copy to Accreditation Guru, Inc.

Engaging and Evaluating for Board Effectiveness

Nonprofit leaders and board members often ask about ways to maximize and maintain board member engagement. Furthermore, they ask about how to evaluate the board’s ongoing effectiveness. While there are a number of areas that go into developing an engaged and effective board, some of the initial key steps are outlined here.

How Do We Maximize and Maintain Board Engagement?

Build Teamwork to Make the Dream Work

It starts with having the appropriate people in place; without this thoughtfully constructed team of individuals, it becomes impossible to achieve a group that is able to work together cohesively and strategically.

In addition, how many nonprofits have members who have been on the board together for years and have never really gotten to know one another? Imagine how much more effectively a group like this could have guided their organization toward its mission had they been governing as a team rather than as acquaintances coming together for meetings, or to merely fill a seat at the table.

To maintain an effective board, there must be an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect among the members and the agency’s executive leadership team. Board members who enjoy interactions with one another and the organization have a higher level of trust and respect that will likely lead to quality participation and regular meeting attendance.

Ensure Commitment to the Nonprofit’s Direction

One of a nonprofit’s most valuable assets is its board of directors. To create this value, a board must be diverse, dedicated, and eager to assist your agency in fulfilling its mission.

Board members should not only be committed to the agency’s mission, but they should also be willing to support the nonprofit’s needs and understand what is expected of them as an actively involved member.

Clearly Communicate Involvement Expectations

Aligning expectations on both sides ins critical. Leadership needs to clearly understand what each member can and is willing to provide in terms of skills, time, and financial support (this means both direct giving and/or helping to raise funds) and successfully match those to the needs of the nonprofit organization.

The appropriate level of board involvement will depend, in part, on the size of the organization and its stage of development. A newly formed nonprofit or grassroots advocacy group will often require an “all hands on deck” approach, whereas a more advanced organization may focus more on maximizing the board members’ network of contacts and fundraising efforts. In either case, the legal and fiduciary oversight responsibilities of the board of directors must be considered priority.

Hold Effective Meetings

Meetings should be a positive use of the board members’ time. Discussions should allow for open debate and questioning, and time should be spent on strategic goal advancement, while not be mired in minutia or the detailed operations of the organization. For example, if a board is reviewing, debating, and approving agency procedures, they are operating on a micro-management level. The board should remain focused only on policy approval and developing and fulfilling strategic goals. There should also be an agreed-upon decision-making process to keep meetings moving forward, ultimately resulting in more effective meetings.

Plan for and Respond to Challenges

Developing and maintaining an effective and unified board requires consistent effort and a desire from each member to keep the interests of the agency first and foremost. This can become exponentially more challenging when starting out with ineffective or frustrated board members. It is important to be on the lookout for warning signs of disengagement or disenchantment as well as any new power struggles. Plan ahead about how you may prevent and handle some of these challenges.

Nonprofits often struggle with how to appropriately dismiss board members from their responsibilities when this becomes the necessary course of action. However, it can be done with time, thoughtful planning, and action. To plan for these situations, there is an entire process that must be in place to identify and recruit diverse, committed, new members. (contact us for additional information).

How Do We Measure Our Effectiveness?

In today’s competitive philanthropic environment, it is essential to regularly measure the functionality and influence of your nonprofit board and determine practices and strategies that will strengthen its impact. Conducting a thoughtful board assessment is a solid place to begin.

The following questions may help to better inform a board assessment:

  • Does each member of your board feel engaged and involved in the oversight of your organization on a regular basis?
  • Is your board directly involved in setting fundraising goals, and are they actively involved in the fundraising process as required by your nonprofit?
  • What are your board’s three greatest strengths, and how have these contributed to the overall success of your nonprofit?
  • What are your board’s three most significant weaknesses, and how have these held your nonprofit from operating at its optimal level?
  • Does your board culture encourage and welcome open discussion of issues, even when members are not in agreement?
  • Is there a mutual level of respect among all board members?

Developing relationships, establishing expectations, heading off potential challenges, and assessing board effectiveness are just some of the activities that will help foster an engaged, cohesive board of directors who can effectively contribute to fulfilling your nonprofit organization’s mission. For information on any of these questions or other ways to take your board to the next level of engagement and effectiveness, please feel free to contact us.

For more information or questions about the contents of this article, please write or call Jennifer Flowers @ Jennifer@AccreditationGuru.com / 212.209.0240.   This post contains original content and was written for Accreditation Guru, Inc. Use of this copy is permitted with credit and reference within the same body of copy to Accreditation Guru, Inc.

Telehealth – One Size May Not Fit All!

As the COVID-19 pandemic has evolved, technology-based service delivery – “Telehealth” (aka Teletherapy or Telemedicine) has quickly become a necessary mode of service delivery for behavioral health providers. One study reports that using telehealth for substance use disorder care has increased 1,400% during COVID. The tremendous uptick over such a short time necessitated a “learn as you deliver” approach for many providers. Now, eighteen months into the pandemic, providers are trying to transition into a new normal and evaluating whether they should offer online, in-person, or hybrid services. Lessons learned from the quick adoption of telehealth for behavioral health care indicate “one mode does not fit all”.

What will be the best mode of service delivery in the future?

In terms of patient satisfaction, it may be a mix. A Vista Research Group study indicates that patients receiving both face-to-face and telehealth treatment consistently rated their satisfaction more highly than those receiving only in-person care. “I see a tremendous variance in staff and clients’ perceptions, experiences, and value assessment of behavioral health telehealth service deliver,” says David G. Branding, PhD, CEO, JAMHI Health and Wellness, Inc.

Yet Behavioral Health Business reports that a market research study polled individuals receiving tele-behavioral health services and showed the majority – 84% – wanting to continue. Reasons for continuing virtual services include the convenience, lack of need to travel, and more comfortable surroundings at home. Carol Smith, one of Accreditation Guru’s CARF accreditation experts, says, “The organizations that I am working with report increased accessibility for their clients due to services being delivered virtually.”

But not everyone has equal access to, or comfort with, telehealth technology, per a RAND corporation study. “While the increased use of telehealth was widespread, some groups of Americans reported using the services less often than others,” said Dr. Shira H. Fischer, lead author and a physician researcher at RAND, a nonprofit research organization.  “If telehealth use is going to remain high, we need to ensure quality of access, particularly for behavioral health care where education, age, and gender were all associated with levels of use.”

Indeed, behavioral health providers are hearing mixed reactions to continuing telehealth. As Colorado Behavioral Healthcare providers transition back to in-person service delivery, they are receiving mixed feedback. “Some staff and clients want to continue with virtual services, while other staff and clients want face-to-face services,” says Doyle Forrestal, Chief Executive Officer of Colorado Behavioral Healthcare Council

As organizations adapt service delivery modes to changing environmental conditions, critical factors to consider are efficacy, client satisfaction, and accessibility. Dave Branding reminds agencies that no matter what mode(s) of service delivery are used, services must always be person-centered.

Accreditation Guru can provide knowledgeable, experienced, and efficient consulting for ay behavioral health organization on the path to (re)accreditation, regardless of your chosen service delivery.

We’d love to hear from you! Reach out to us for more information.

Sources

  1. LexisNexis Risk Solutions, 2021 Mental Health Report Validates Surge in Mental Health Telehealth Visits During pandemic, healthcaredive.com (May 20, 2021).
  2. Conti, Joanna, Why Were Patients Dissatisfied with Telehealth-Only Addiction Treatment? vista-research-group.com (July 22, 2021).
  3. Coward, Kyle, 84% of Americans Want to Continue Getting Mental Health Care Via Telehealth Post Pandemic, BHbusiness.com (July 8, 2021).
  4. Fischer, Shira H., MD, Use of Telehealth Jumped as Pandemic Shutdown Begun, Use is Highest for Mental Health Services, Rand.org (January 11, 2021).

For more information or questions about the contents of this article, please write or call Jennifer Flowers @ Jennifer@AccreditationGuru.com / 212.209.0240.   This post contains original content and was written for Accreditation Guru, Inc. Use of this copy is permitted with credit and reference within the same body of copy to Accreditation Guru, Inc.

Exploring Ways to Find Your Next Board Member

An effective board of directors begins with having the appropriate people in place. Without this thoughtfully constructed team of individuals, it becomes difficult to achieve a group that is able to work together cohesively and strategically.

Nonprofit leaders often find that looking for a nonprofit board member can be a time-consuming and frustrating experience. Using online resources, such as LinkedIn, may be a great place to start that search. This blog will discuss how to plan for, and explore, various resources for finding your next board member.

Before You Search, Analyze Your Current State

To save time and resources, do some analysis of the current state of your Board before launching into a search.  Here are some considerations:

  • Does your board currently have an adequate number of well-functioning board committees and/or other workgroups to support your organization’s operations?
  • What is the expertise, skill set and individual make up of your existing Board for current needs? Could the Board you have now potentially serve your future needs?
  • Do you have a mix of demographics, individual skills and interests, dedication to your agency’s mission, appropriate level of diversity and reflection of the population served by your agency?
  • Does your nonprofit regularly recruit new members? If so, by what process? Is a standardized interview conducted and a set of standard questions asked? How can you use those questions to also inform your search?

Recruitment Tips

Ideally you already have a pool of potential board members who are already passionate about your mission. People who may be interested in a board positions include, but are not limited to:

  • Current volunteers
  • Someone in your donor network
  • Connections of current board members
  • Someone who represents of the demographics of the community served

Individuals may need to be educated on what it means to serve on your board. Take the opportunity to train and mentor people about the reward of being a board member of your organization. Remember, it’s possible that a terrific potential board member has not stepped forward because no one ever asked them.

Board Connection Organizations

If you have exhausted the search for board members among your current pool of connections, it may be appropriate to use a board connection organization and online tools. A focused online search can be a great source for seeking out qualified, appropriate, new nonprofit board of director members for virtually any type of agency.

For one, LinkedIn’s service, LinkedIn Board Member Connect, aims to help streamline this recruitment process. Board Member Connect helps nonprofit leaders leverage their own networks and their board members’ networks to find the right skilled professionals to join their boards.

One of the benefits of Board Member Connect is the advanced search feature that allows you to target specific qualities while searching for your ideal candidate. For example, you can search for someone with legal experience, who works in the housing industry and is located in Greater New York City. There is also a “nonprofit interests” search feature that allows you to filter by professionals who have indicated their interest in board service.

To participate, you must be a registered U.S. nonprofit organization. With regard to cost, nonprofits are able to post board opportunities on LinkedIn for less than $50 per posting. BoardSource members can post an opportunity for free at their Board Recruitment Center. Impact Opportunity and BoardnetUSA are two additional, nationwide sites where you can post open board positions. You may also contact your local United Way or local community foundation for additional recruitment resources.

Once you have a solid list of places for outreach as well as people to connect with – the process may prove to be both less time-consuming and frustrating.

Good luck on your search!

Next week: You’ve found the best board for your organization, now what? How educating both new and existing members can positively affect your organization.

For more information or questions about the contents of this article, please write or call Jennifer Flowers @ Jennifer@AccreditationGuru.com / 212.209.0240.   This post contains original content and was written for Accreditation Guru, Inc. Use of this copy is permitted with credit and reference within the same body of copy to Accreditation Guru, Inc.