Tips for Finding A Qualified Substance Treatment Program

January 30th, 2020

The toughest thing to do after admitting there is a substance use issue is to decide where to find treatment. Which programs offer the best chances for success and which ones don’t is not obvious—especially for someone entering treatment for the first time. And family members who are trying to help have no idea where to turn.

When deciding to seek treatment, whether at Fairbanks or somewhere else, here are tips on finding the right kind of provider. This information, based on recommendations by the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP), can help you sort through the information about treatment facilities and make a smart decision.

Tip #1: Make it a health care decision.
Addiction is a chronic disease. Recovering from substance abuse and maintaining sobriety is a health care issue. So, talk to the people whose jobs revolve around your health. Ask your family doctor and other medical professionals for a recommendation. They’ve probably had patients who’ve attended these facilities and know which ones have the best reputations. When you tour facilities, look for programs that seek in-depth patient medical history to properly assess whether you are a good fit for their programs. Finally, ask your insurance company to see which facilities are in-network for you.

Tip #2: Are they accredited?
A hallmark of a quality treatment center is one that is accredited by NAATP, the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF), or the Joint Commission. Acccreditation means the staff, programs, and facility have been reviewed by independent third-party professionals from these organizations and have been proven to maintain high safety and quality standards.

All three organizations offer online search features so you find accredited facilities in your area. Search NAAAP’s accredited members here, CARF’s accredited providers here, and the Joint Commission’s accredited providers here. Additionally, addiction treatment centers should be state licensed for the levels of care they provide. State licensing authorities also will have records of any violations or complaints filed against facilities.

Tip #3: Look for evidence-based treatment.
A reputable facility should use program that are evidence based, whether they are medicine-focused or behavioral-focused. Many programs will combine both. Evidence based means that the treatments are based on scientific research and have provided positive results.

Medicine-focused treatments help facilities detox people with substance use disorder and may include medication-assisted therapy, commonly called MAT. Then, once patients are substance-free, behavioral-focused programs help the patients learn how to maintain their recovery. These programs may use techniques such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, motivational incentives, community reinforcement, family behavior therapies and 12-step programs

For a more in-depth exploration of these treatments, the National Institute on Drug Abuse has an excellent guide here.

Tip #4: Transparency.
A treatment center should be open about its treatment methods, staff qualifications, years in operation, patient outcomes, how it uses patient medical history, and provide in-network insurance information. The deeper you delve, the better the facility should appear. Be wary of facilities that don’t provide these type of information, are evasive, offer only generic answers or tell you what you want to hear.

Transparency should also extend to patient financial responsibility and billing practices. Even with insurance paying for treatment, there is almost always some patient cost in the form of deductibles or co-pays. If a facility offers you no out-of-pocket costs, free travel, help in obtaining insurance or gifts of any kind, avoid it. These could be signs of illegal inducements or insurance fraud. Instead, you should find a treatment program that follows a strict code of ethics based on a comprehensive criteria such as that of NAATP.

It can be tempting to search for treatment centers using internet-based commercial directories, online top-ten lists, late-night TV spots with 800 numbers, sites that present themselves as informational resources, or offer free treatment placement. Be sure to check that any treatment website includes the actual physical address of the facility and is not what is known as a “call aggregator,” a company that just sends your inquiry to facilities with which they have financial arrangements.

As confusing as it may be, you are much better off using the tips here to do homework as well as talking to others who have been through treatment and are living in recovery.