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Quality standards in addiction care

Across the healthcare landscape, quality standards are in place to ensure patients are receiving safe, appropriate, evidence-based, and standardized care that is tailored to their individual needs and symptomology.   

A significant gap has long existed in the treatment of substance use disorders (SUD), as there was no standardized method to provide treatment based on an individual’s needs at that moment, meaning people seeking treatment often received care that was either too intense or not intense enough, preventing them from attaining sustained recovery.

To create standardized treatment protocols and build additional credibility around programs, the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) developed criteria based on a holistic, multidimensional assessment[1] to determine what level of care (LOC) an individual needs. This development was revolutionary as it was the first time the field agreed on established criteria. After 35 years of improvement and refinement, the ASAM Criteria has become the national standard.

While many providers have adopted the ASAM criteria, and most regulators and payers require its use to determine the LOC a person may need, a significant gap still persists in ensuring services are delivered with fidelity to the criteria. As a result, those seeking treatment for themselves or a loved one continue to face challenges identifying a setting that provides evidence-based treatment focused on their specific needs. 

To close this gap, ASAM partnered with CARF International, the leading accreditor of behavioral health services, to develop criteria that demonstrates providers are, in fact, delivering the LOC for which they are admitting persons. Programs that are providing levels of residential care can be certified for three levels including: 3.7- Medically Monitored Intensive Inpatient Services, 3.5- Clinically Managed High  Intensity Residential Services, and 3.1- Clinically Managed Low Intensity Residential Services.

By achieving the ASAM LOC certification, residential treatment programs can establish themselves as high quality SUD providers and ensure future program licensing as well as future funding from states, and private and public payors. This certification demonstrates that facilities are delivering the appropriate care to the appropriate person at the appropriate time. 

Preparing for certification is different from preparing for licensure in that a program must take an in-depth look at their clinical practice to ensure alignment with the ASAM criteria.

Because of our long and proven track record of helping clients prepare for, and secure, NCQA, AAAHC and URAC accreditation as well as deep expertise in SUD programs and treatment, HMA was selected by ASAM as a preferred partner to provide technical assistance and usher programs through the certification process as well as help address shortfalls and gaps in programs and care.

Our team has the right mix of clinical and operational knowledge, training, and frontline experience to guide clients through the certification process and help build better systems of care and accountability from the ground up.

HMA has the depth and breadth of services across the healthcare spectrum, and we are uniquely positioned to help organizations address gaps identified in the certification process and improve care by ensuring services are delivered in fidelity to the LOC at which a person presents.

HMA’s Institute on Addiction is also able to provide a full complement of services and support to residential providers including ASAM LOC clinical expertise, developing policies and procedures, building and operationalizing clinical programs, and improving revenue cycle, operations, and as well as payor contracting strategies.

Certification is really step number one. Utilizing HMA’s “Survey Ready Model,” we will identify ways to build quality into everyday practice allowing programs to stay on top of – and ahead of – requirements. 


[1] https://www.asam.org/asam-criteria/about-the-asam-criteria

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Meet the HMA blog contributors

Nicole Bongiovanni

Senior Consultant
Lansing, MI

Debbi Witham

Principal
Washington, DC