Accreditation champions are individuals in your organization who have either been through accreditation previously, and therefore understand the process; or someone who sees the benefits of accreditation and can get excited by it!
Accreditation mandates are all the talk among leaders of human service organizations. Thanks to the recent passage of the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) on the national level and state mandates for accreditation, like one recently instituted for adult foster care providers in Massachusetts, many child, family and behavioral healthcare service agencies are becoming alarmed about having to complete the complex accreditation process within short deadlines. Well, they can either panic or plan!
Accreditation requires that organizations undergo an objective review by an independent accrediting body and signifies that they are effectively managing their resources and enhancing the quality of life for the population served. Providers that earn accreditation signal their desire to reach beyond the minimum licensing standards and make a long-term commitment to strong governance, program consistency, outcome measurement and continuous improvement throughout their agencies.
Achieving accreditation is a worthy endeavor, even if it is a requirement, but many organizations underestimate the time commitment involved. In general, it takes 12 to 18 months to prepare for national accreditation – sometimes more, sometimes less, depending on the original state of readiness.
Effective project management from the beginning is key. You must plan for an even flow of work in order to avoid a rush at the end. You also need to allow time for significant steps in the process, including, but not limited to:
- Selecting an accrediting body. (See our tip sheet on how best to approach this evaluation.)
- Securing budgetary allotment and board approval.
- Each accrediting body calculates its own application fees, survey costs and annual fees, which may vary widely based on the revenue size of the organization being reviewed, and/or the number of programs and locations. Staff time, operational improvements and consultants (if utilized) may also add to overall expenditures.
- Preparing standards-compliant policies, procedures, plans and protocols.
- Making operational and service delivery improvements, as necessary.
- Implementing updated processes to conform with accreditation standards.
- Participating in a mock survey.
When an accreditation mandate is enacted, a deadline is imposed on organizations. Remember, though, that there may be hundreds or many hundreds of organizations trying to become accredited at the same time and the accrediting bodies only have a finite amount of capacity to accommodate all of these applicants.
With the Family First Prevention Services Act, for example, congregate care providers must become accredited “Qualified Residential Treatment Providers” (QRTPs) by October 1, 2019. Though states have the option to extend this deadline for up to two years, all affected service providers should already be proactively working toward accreditation.
When a mandate is instituted, impacted organizations should begin the accreditation process as soon as possible to get ahead of the influx of other providers seeking to become accredited and have enough time to thoroughly and calmly complete the necessary work. Once the process begins, effective project management and support from leadership will help ensure that accreditation activities stay on track despite other priorities that may arise.
Clearly, it is better to plan rather than panic!
When it passed the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) last February, Congress aimed to change the face of child welfare, in part by implementing a funding shift that restricts the use of Title IV-E financing for out-of-home “congregate care” placements. The goal is to increase assurances that children will be kept in family-like settings whenever possible.
One section of FFPSA defines a Qualified Residential Treatment Program (QRTP), which is one of the few settings that will be allowed to receive federal reimbursements after the first two weeks a child has been in care.
A key provision of the Act is that QRTPs must be accredited by a national organization. This is a long process that should be undertaken as soon as possible because time to comply with the act is running out. Do not underestimate the effort it takes to achieve national accreditation. The time to begin the process is now.
Congregate care providers must become QRTPs by October 1, 2019 if they want to be eligible for this designation. While states have the option to extend this deadline for up to two years, all providers should be working toward next year’s October 1 deadline.
What does it mean to become a QRTP? In summary, the service provider must:
- Be licensed and be accredited by at least one of three federally approved accreditors: The Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF), Council on Accreditation (COA) or The Joint Commission (formerly JCAHO)
- Use a trauma-informed treatment model
- Have registered or licensed nursing staff and other licensed clinical staff, available 24/7, on-site according to the treatment model
- Demonstrate family engagement and outreach, including siblings, in the child’s treatment
- Provide discharge planning and family-based aftercare supports for at least six months post-discharge
The accreditation mandate sets a high bar, but one that helps ensure the delivery of high-quality care. Organizations that earn accreditation have reached beyond the minimum licensing standards and made a long-term commitment to strong governance, program consistency, outcome measurement and continuous improvement throughout their agencies.
Accreditation requires organizations to undergo an objective review by an independent accrediting body and signifies that they are effectively managing their resources and enhancing the quality of life for the population served.
Many organizations underestimate the time required to prepare for and become accredited. In general, it takes 12 to 18 months to prepare for national accreditation, sometimes more, sometimes less, depending on the original state of readiness.
The time needed to complete the accreditation process includes, but is not limited to, the following:
- Selecting an accrediting body
- Securing budgetary allotment and board approval
- Preparing standards-compliant policies, procedures and protocols
- Implementing accreditation standards
- Making operational and service delivery improvements, as necessary
- Participating in a mock survey
Because Family First represents a looming, national deadline for accreditation, there will be many hundreds (if not thousands) of organizations trying to become accredited at the same time. And the accrediting bodies only have a finite amount of capacity to accommodate all of these applicants.
Therefore, every organization should begin the accreditation process as soon as possible to get ahead of the rush. Once the process begins, effective project management and support from leadership will help ensure that accreditation activities are not derailed by other priorities that may crop up.
For information on how to effectively and pro-actively prepare for CARF, COA or Joint Commission accreditation, please contact Accreditation Guru, Inc. at Info@AccreditationGuru.com or 212.209.0240.
Washington, D.C. (May 1, 2018) — Jennifer Flowers, founder and CEO of Accreditation Guru, delivered a well-attended, well-received seminar to members of the National Child Welfare and Mental Health Coalition at the national headquarters of the Children’s Defense Fund in Washington, D. C. Several coalition members participated over conference call.Entitled “Family First Prevention Services Act – Accreditation 101: Understanding the Accreditation Process for Qualified Residential Treatment Programs,” the presentation covered the new law’s impact on congregate care programs throughout the United States and outlined the basic steps and considerations these organizations must undertake to comply with the statute.
“Jennifer’s reassuring, helpful presentation emphasized the positive impact of accreditation on the quality of care for children and walked through the multiple steps involved, reminding us all of the time it takes for service providers to work their way toward accreditation,” said Stefanie Sprow, deputy director of child welfare and mental health at the Children’s Defense Fund, which chairs the Child Welfare and Mental Health Coalition and its series on implementing the Family First Prevention Services Act. “As one of the nation’s foremost experts in this field, Jennifer’s perspective is invaluable.”
The new law, passed February 2018, requires all qualified residential treatment programs (QRTPs) to become accredited by October 1, 2019 if they want to receive Title IV-E federal funding. But because the accreditation process can sometimes take up to 18 months to complete and a large number of organizations have yet to begin the process, accrediting agencies will be stretched to meet the additional demand. Time is getting short, said Flowers.
Operating under the Children’s Defense Fund umbrella, the coalition consists of approximately 250 people, spanning national, state and local organizations, the bulk of which provide child welfare services.
The interesting and informative presentation outlined the many benefits of national accreditation and covered the basic steps along the accreditation journey. Providers must choose among three accrediting bodies approved by the Department of Health and Human Services, document their adherence to their rigorous standards, submit to a review and site survey by the chosen accrediting agency and maintain the standards for either a three or four year period.
She also offered some tips for helping to smooth the process. The long, involved process can be demanding for service providers, but, said Flowers, they can either “plan or panic.”
Addressing the group by phone from Memphis, Hughes Johnson, managing director of compliance and performance improvement at Youth Villages, which operates in 14 states across the country, shared his organization’s experiences with accreditation. He called Flowers’s presentation spot-on.
“The accreditation and re-accreditation process helped us raise the bar for our staff and the population that we serve,” he said. “It is a tough process with a large number of standards, but it helped us develop a defined policy that holds us accountable.”
Flowers, a nationally renowned expert on accreditation and best practices for human service providers, advises organizations undergoing accreditation.
“In general, service providers are laser-focused on delivering quality care and they often fail to realize that accreditation is a complicated, involved process,” said Flowers. “This served as a wonderful opportunity to help members of the coalition provide valuable information to their constituents and help introduce them to the process.”
About Accreditation Guru, Inc.
Accreditation Guru has helped guide private and public health and human service organizations through the national accreditation process by creating an efficient, systematic approach that has resulted in a 100 percent success rate. Their expertise also includes implementing performance measurement and quality improvement programs, developing long-term strategic plans and increasing the effectiveness of boards of directors. For information about their services and how they can help your organization Prepare for Greatness™, please visit https://accreditationguru.com.