If you believe the recent flurry of headlines, “excellence in addiction treatment” can start to sound like an exotic animal on the endangered species list here in South Florida: if you’re lucky enough, you might catch a rare sighting of treatment excellence … every 10 years.
Such news stories may draw viewers, but they don’t always help the 26 million Americans suffering from substance abuse, for whom quality addiction treatment—not rehab horror stories— is a more promising hope of recovery.
Excellent Substance Treatment – What the Experts Say
That’s why Beach House is leading a national conversation about what excellence in substance treatment looks like. As part of the effort, we recently assembled a panel of trusted addiction experts from South Florida’s treatment community to answer questions about what to look for in a prospective treatment center. The town hall, which was free and open to the public, also took questions from a live Facebook audience from around the country.
Led and facilitated by our very own Micah Robbins, the panel event featured the following leaders from South Florida’s treatment community in a lively and informative conversation about where we are in treating addiction and how to ensure high standards of care:
- Lyle Fried, CAP, ICADC, CHC, CEO of The Shores Treatment & Recovery
- J. Salima Patel, Ph.D., Director of Family Programming at Grace’s Way
- Joe Bryan, CEO of the Beachcomber Family Treatment Center
- Jay Kuchera, M.D., FASAM, Anesthesiologist, Addiction Medicine
How to Vet a Prospective Treatment Center and What to Look for
These 12 tips for how to vet a prospective treatment center and what to look for in the search for quality substance treatment are a direct byproduct of that conversation with four leading experts in the field:
- Ask a lot of questions of the provider. “If you feel like you’re imposing on them, they’re probably not the right fit for you. If they’re not willing to answer a lot of questions, there’s a reason,” advised Fried.
- Whenever possible, visit the treatment facility. Websites can be a helpful starting place for information, Dr. Kuchera said, but an in-person visit and tour is the best way to evaluate any prospective treatment program.
- Check the client-therapist ratio. A lower ratio generally means you’re more likely to get personalized attention to your unique treatment needs, including more hands-on time with a primary therapist.
- Be familiar with your personal treatment needs, so you can explore how a program will address them. For example, “If you have trauma issues, do they address trauma and how?,” Fried counseled. Since a majority of people with substance use disorders have suffered from some form of trauma, it’s also wise to inquire about whether a prospective provider addresses trauma issues. If so, what therapies do they employ, and are their therapists credentialed in these therapies?
- Inquire about Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) and a full continuum of care – Dr. Patel cited data showing that MAT improves the rates of recovery for those with certain addictions, such as opiate use disorder. He and the other panelists emphasized how long-term care, in the context of a full continuum of care, is also associated with higher rates of recovery. Ideally, quality addiction treatment will provide you with these options.
- Confirm the provider has certification by the Joint Commission and licensing from the Department of Children and Families (DCF). A DCF-licensed, Joint Commission-certified treatment center has demonstrated compliance with certain treatment standards and best practices. If a prospective provider does not have this certification, then, you can cross them off your list.
- Call the DCF to investigate any history of complaints. Having some complaints is pretty par for the course, but if a center has received many complaints, that should be a red flag.
- Confirm that the therapists are credentialed as “Certified Addiction Professionals” (CAPs). “At a minimum,” according to Bryan, therapists should have this credential, which means they have at least 6,000 hours of clinical experience in substance abuse treatment.
- Look for a diversity of options with respect to therapies offered. “If there are five clinicians, you want to see the diversity of therapies offered and what the therapists are trained to do,” Dr. Kuchera said.
- Inquire about whether you’ll be free to change therapists in the event that you need a better fit. The quality of this client-therapist relationship can be a big predictor of treatment outcome, according to Fried, so make sure you have the freedom to change therapists if necessary.
- Be wary of any red flags. If people “want to rush you off the phone,” or “won’t let you see the program,” those are immediate red flags, Dr. Kuchera instructed.
- Look for transparency. By “transparency,” Dr. Kuchera elaborated that clients should be able to know clearly and up front what they can expect to receive from the provider, and vice versa (what’s expected of them).
Get more tips from these four experts about how to find addiction treatment you can trust, in this full video of the event.