As a professional, I work for an organization known as Recovery Consultants.  We contract with behavioral healthcare organizations to achieve national accreditation through The Joint Commission, which is considered the Gold Standard for accreditation of drug treatment centers in America today.

With addiction running rampant through every local community, organizations taking the time to go through the accreditation process demonstrates a commitment to excellence that is critical to drug treatment centers that treat substance use disorder.

The Joint Commission (formerly JCAHO) has long been in the business of accrediting hospitals worldwide.  In many states Joint Commission accreditation is required in order to accept Medicaid for services. But what does accreditation mean to behavioral healthcare organizations? We’ll start with a little history.

The History of The Joint Commission

Not long after The Joint Commission was given federal authority to certify hospitals to accept Medicaid in 1965, they broadened their scope of services to include behavioral health programs.  This includes a variety of health and human services settings, such as behavioral healthcare organizations providing mental health care, addiction treatment services, opioid treatment programs, and services for people with developmental disabilities.

Fast forward to today: The Joint Commission has officially accredited 21,000 organizations and services in the United States, approximately 2,000 of which provide behavioral healthcare.  The Joint Commission’s rulebook, also referred to as the Comprehensive Accreditation Manual for Behavioral Health Care, outlines standards for addiction treatment that cover services related to chemical dependency, substance abuse, and other addictive behaviors.

The Push for Joint Commission Accreditation

With drug overdose deaths on the rise, many addiction treatment centers have reached out to us to discuss the possibility of being accredited by the Joint Commission.  We see this as a step in the right direction for programs dedicated to treating substance use disorder as well as other commonly associated co-occurring conditions.

One of the earliest programs to reach out to us was Scottsdale Recovery Center (SRC), a drug treatment center in Scottsdale, Arizona.  We have had the pleasure of working with SRC for close to 6-years now.

When we sat down with Chris Cohn, the owner of Scottsdale Recovery Center, we wanted to learn about his program and understand the vision for his treatment center.  His short answer was that he wanted his treatment center to be on the cutting edge of addictions treatment, providing the safest and highest quality of care to individuals and families struggling with substance use disorder.  He wanted Scottsdale Recovery Center to be one of the best treatment programs in the country.

Scottsdale Recovery Center’s Initial Accreditation

When we discussed the process of becoming accredited with The Joint Commission with Chris, everyone understood that the accreditation process would be challenging.  Chris came across incredibly confident. Not confident in the sense that he didn’t think anything would need to change in order for his treatment center to be accredited by The Joint Commission, but confident in the licensed professionals and support staff he had working at his program.

The first place we start when preparing a behavioral healthcare organization for accreditation is by performing a Gap Analysis.  What this means is we conduct a mock survey at the treatment center and see areas that may be deficient when compared to The Joint Commission’s standards.  This sets the stage for which staff will be handling which parts of the accreditation survey preparation, as well as a timeline for when the treatment center will be ready for an on-site survey.

After completing the Gap Analysis at Scottsdale Recovery Center we were able to learn a few things.  First, they were doing a lot of things right, and second, they had the professionals in place for us to feel confident we could achieve accreditation with The Joint Commission within 4 months.  And that’s what we did.

Scottsdale Recovery Center’s Survey Preparation

With the Gap Analysis completed and a survey date set for 4-months out, preparation for the survey was underway.  We understood where Scottsdale Recovery Center needed to make some changes, and while there wasn’t a much that needed to change with the way they delivered treatment for addiction, certain areas of the program needed to be enhanced.

The Joint Commission has pretty stringent standards around what clinical instruments treatment centers need to include in the assessment process for clients.  So while Scottsdale Recovery Center was already assessing clients for things like addiction history, trauma, and potential suicide risk, the tools they were using needed to be enhanced to gather additional information.  

The Joint Commission also requires that behavioral healthcare organizations screen for physical pain and nutrition status.  While Chris already had a pretty strong focus on client nutrition, it’s required that organizations ask specific questions around weight loss or gain as well as nutritional preferences.  If necessary, additional services could be provided to clients who may have more complicated nutritional challenges.

A lot of these program modifications were pretty straightforward.  With Scottsdale Recovery Center’s staff on board, they took to the task of reassessing their patients with the new instruments we implemented.  They now had incredibly in-depth information in all the following areas:

– Substance use disorders
– Mental Health
– Physical Pain
– Nutrition
– Trauma
– Suicide Risk
– Client strengths and weaknesses

Combine this with what they understood about the families of all their clients as well as religious preferences and knowledge of cultural sensitivity, and this is how your treatment center is positioned to offer amazing care to clients.

Scottsdale Recovery Center’s Survey

With the table set and the surveyor on the way, we felt great about the strategy we used to prepare Scottsdale Recovery Center for their accreditation survey.  Everything their staff did to make sure the services they provided matched up with the Joint Commission’s standards demonstrated an incredible dedication to their work.  

The survey was a great success.  The staff were well trained and prepared for interviews from the surveyor, the facility looked incredible, and all the appropriate clinical documentation was in place.  With a few small issues to correct, the accreditation project was complete and Scottsdale Recovery Center was able to share with potential clients and others in the industry that when it came to holistic addiction treatment, they meant business.

After the Survey

Following Scottsdale Recovery Center’s successful accreditation with The Joint Commission, Recovery Consultants has continued to work with other substance abuse treatment centers looking to achieve accreditation.  While we have managed to successfully guide dozens of organizations through the accreditation process, our relationship with Scottsdale Recovery Center has continued on in the years after their first survey.

We have continued to participate as a member of Scottsdale Recovery Center’s Quality Management and Performance Improvement program, where we work with their staff to maintain continuous compliance at all times.  The Joint Commission is also about growth and always making sure your treatment center is improving the work they do with clients. As the behavioral healthcare standards evolve and new rules are implemented annually, staying ahead of the curve is important.  

I have mixed emotions when I meet with a Joint Commission surveyor and they mention how 90% of the programs they survey are not yet in compliance with certain new standards implemented close to a year ago.  I take comfort in knowing that as soon as these standards are presented published, we are strategizing on how to integrate these standards into programs such as Scottsdale Recovery Center.

The addiction recovery industry is about saving lives.  As additional research is conducted and treatment for substance use and co-occurring disorders evolves over time, being early adopters of best practices to treat addiction may give us the one opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life.  I can’t think of anything more important.


Andy Bennett is the owner of Recovery Consultants, who assists organizations in achieving Joint Commission accreditation.  They also provide services to individuals and agencies who want to license new outpatient, inpatient, residential, and detox treatment centers.  Andy can be reached at [email protected]

To learn more about Recovery Consultants, check out his website at