SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


SEARHC Earns Highest Level of Accreditation
For Its Substance Abuse Treatment Programs


December 07, 2005

Sitka, Alaska - The SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium has been awarded a three-year accreditation for its substance abuse treatment programs by CARF, an international accrediting commission. In addition to the three-year accreditation, the highest level of accreditation, SEARHC also received five commendations for demonstrating "exemplary conformance to the standards."

The Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) is an independent, not-for-profit accrediting body that establishes consumer-focused standards to help organizations measure and improve the quality of their substance abuse treatment programs and services. CARF's mission is to promote quality, value and optimal outcomes of services through a consultative accreditation process that centers on enhancing the lives of the persons served.




"The three-member accreditation crew that visited Sitka in October had over 50 years combined of review experience. The team said it had never given as many commendations to one agency before," said Pat Hefley, SEARHC director of behavioral health services. "They said they occasionally would provide one or two commendations, but we received five."

The CARF accreditation covers four substance abuse programs run by SEARHC - Raven's Way, a statewide residential program in Sitka for youth that includes a challenge camp on Biorka Island; the Bill Brady Healing Center, a regional residential program in Sitka for adults; Deilee Hit (pronounced "day-klee-hit"), a regional residential program in Sitka for women with children; and the Community Family Services Program, a village-based outpatient program with centers in Angoon, Haines, Hydaburg, Juneau, Kake, Klawock, Klukwan, Pelican, Petersburg, Sitka and Skagway. This is the fifth time that SEARHC has received CARF's highest level of accreditation.

"There currently are over 1,500 individual CARF standards that are evaluated during an accreditation review. These standards are very customer-focused and they are modified and changed each year," Hefley said of the accreditation process. "SEARHC was one of the first in Alaska to receive national accreditation." Until 1993, all the programs in Alaska received accreditation from the state.

Hefley said only about a dozen of Alaska's more than 100 substance abuse rehabilitation programs have earned national accreditation. He noted that the SEARHC board of directors played a big role in the process when it decided the programs should be innovative and run at a state-of-the-art level. In addition to the substance abuse treatment programs, SEARHC also runs several prevention programs that are not part of the CARF accreditation process. In addition, SEARHC has worked with Yale University on a clinical research study for alcohol-dependent adults.

"I really want to give the credit to the SEARHC board of directors, which has been extremely supportive of our efforts and who truly want our communities to be healthier places to live," Hefley said, adding that SEARHC has an incredibly talented, dedicated and hard-working team of behavioral health providers.

The SEARHC program staff not only focus on patients currently in treatment, but they also track patients for at least one year after treatment to see if the changes have been successful. Hefley said SEARHC tracks nine variables when a patient completes a program - such as if a patient returns to work or school, if they are abstinent or substantially drug and alcohol free, what the home environment is like, how many times the patient is treated in the emergency room, how many times the patient gets caught up in the legal system, etc. - and the programs met their goals on all nine variables. Seventy-five percent of the clients show substantial improvements in all nine variables compared to their pre-admission condition, Hefley said.

In its 21-page report, CARF noted several of SEARHC's innovative treatments. Two of CARF's commendations were related to SEARHC's use of videoconferencing, a high-tech tele-behavioral health system that allows behavioral health specialists in Sitka to consult with patients who are in their villages. This lets the patient stay closer to home during treatment, which cuts down on travel costs for both the patient and SEARHC, and keeps the patient in more-familiar surroundings during treatment. CARF also commended SEARHC for how it incorporates Alaska Native cultures and workers into its programs. The other commendations were for how SEARHC reacts to unusual incidents and monitors the data, and for the maintenance of its facilities.

"There have been a lot of innovations," Hefley said, adding that the tele-behavioral health system has been but one of the most recent innovations. "Recently we have moved away from itinerant supervision of village services to a model where we actually have master's degree-level behavioral health clinicians living and working in the community. The use of the videoconferencing and the availability of more advanced behavioral health services locally is highly effective. Most of our clients appreciate receiving advanced services in their home communities."


On the Web:

SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium


Source of News:

SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium

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