Learn / Rehab Center Accreditation: Does It Matter?

Rehab Center Accreditation: Does It Matter?

Ben Camp
 May 22nd, 2019|   Clinically Reviewed by 
Olivia Mueller

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 centers are licensed, certified or accredited in some form.

The 2017 National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services held by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, SAMHSA,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, 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 they must meet an ethical management evaluation, which is a short online course. 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

Accrediting bodies 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

Most accrediting bodies put rehab centers through their paces and demand a high level of excellence that’s 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. Often, they’ll encourage rehab centers to improve upon weak areas within their operations and to continue to deliver a service that exceeds the average standard.

Do Accreditations Matter?

In short: yes, accreditations do matter.

For example, CARF requires a review of service quality and 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 that’s 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.

This level of self-awareness to do and be better is important. It’s an assurance than can be translated into trust. 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.

Frequently Asked Questions About Rehab Accreditation

What does it mean if a rehab is accredited?

An accredited rehab has passed quality checks, inspections, and other criteria to meet quality standards set by a 3rd-party accrediting body.

What are the accrediting agencies for rehabs?

Rehabs can be licensed and certified by these accrediting bodies: 

• CARF (Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities)
• Joint Commission 
• NCQA (National Committee for Quality Assurance)
• COA (Council on Accreditation)
• WAATME (World Accreditation Addiction Treatment Mark of Excellence)

What rehab accreditations should you look for?

It depends—each accrediting body has its own quality standards. CARF (Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities) and Joint Commission are the most common, established agencies. Both include on-site evaluations.

Return to Resource Library

Our Promise

How Is Recovery.com Different?

We believe everyone deserves access to accurate, unbiased information about mental health and addiction. That’s why we have a comprehensive set of treatment providers and don't charge for inclusion. Any center that meets our criteria can list for free. We do not and have never accepted fees for referring someone to a particular center. Providers who advertise with us must be verified by our Research Team and we clearly mark their status as advertisers.

Our goal is to help you choose the best path for your recovery. That begins with information you can trust.