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SAMHSA News - Volume X, No. 3, Summer 2002
 

Accrediting Organizations Chosen for Methadone Treatment Programs

SAMHSA selected four organizations this past fall to accredit substance abuse treatment programs that use methadone and other medications to treat heroin and similar addictions. The four organizations are the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities, the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, the Council on Accreditation for Children and Family Services, and the State of Washington Department of Social and Health Services Division of Alcohol and Substance Abuse.


"Accreditation of methadone treatment programs is a fundamental shift in the way we approach drug abuse treatment in our Nation."
–Charles G. Curie, M.A., A.C.S.W.
SAMHSA Administrator

The selection is part of an ongoing SAMHSA initiative to improve the quality and oversight of opioid treatment programs that use methadone or Levo-Alpha-Acetyl-Methadol (LAAM). Accreditation, proven over the years to produce effective outcomes in other parts of the health care industry, is a widely adopted external quality assessment system used by the Federal Government, states, managed care firms, insurers, and others to ensure accountability for quality treatment.

The move to accreditation followed recommendations made by a 1997 consensus panel at the National Institutes of Health. The panel concluded that existing Federal and state regulations limit the ability of physicians and other health care professionals to provide methadone maintenance services to patients and recommended accreditation in lieu of regulations to improve the quality of care. The changes are also consistent with a 1995 report by the Institute of Medicine that stressed the need to readjust the balance among regulations, clinical practice guidelines, and quality assurance systems. The accreditation process replaced a 30-year-old inspection program conducted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Accreditation organizations will apply specific opioid treatment standards as part of their reviews.

Opioid treatment programs were required to apply for certification to one of the four accreditation organizations by March 4. Treatment programs previously approved by FDA will have until May 19, 2003, to complete the accreditation process.

"Accreditation of methadone treatment programs is a fundamental shift in the way we approach drug abuse treatment in our Nation," said SAMHSA Administrator Charles G. Curie, M.A., A.C.S.W. "Accreditation can help reduce stigma and discrimination by moving drug abuse treatment into mainstream medicine. Physicians and other health care professionals will make decisions based on standards that emphasize the best care for patients—just like treatment for other diseases."

H. Westley Clark, M.D., J.D., M.P.H., Director of SAMHSA's Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT), pointed out that "as a benchmark of quality, accreditation indicates that an organization meets certain critical performance standards. This should enhance community confidence in opioid treatment and enhance the ability of treatment programs to access managed care contracts."


"This should enhance the ability of treatment programs to access managed care contracts."
–H. Westley Clark, M.D., J.D, M.P.H.
CSAT Director

CSAT, which oversees the accreditation program, is providing technical assistance to opioid treatment programs to help them meet the accreditation standards of the organization they have selected. Questions about technical assistance should be directed to 1 (800) 839-6120. Questions about Federal regulations or the Federal certification program should be directed to 1 (866) 463-6687. Questions about the accreditation process should be directed to the accreditation organization chosen by the opioid treatment program.

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