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10 Tips for Gauging the Quality of an Inpatient Rehab Program, from an Expert in the Field

When you’re suffering from a drug or alcohol addiction and/or another serious mental health condition, quality inpatient treatment is often critical to recovery. But finding quality inpatient treatment isn’t always easy in an industry that has at times been prone to scams. A case in point: a recent story on NPR described how some addiction treatment clinics are claiming that nutritional IV infusions (or “NAD infusions”) can cure cravings and addiction. The news is the latest in a string of reports in recent years revealing how some rehab facilities have preyed on and profited from individuals’ and families’ desperate hopes for a cure. 

How, then, do you protect yourself from scams when you’re looking for an inpatient rehab program? These 10 tips for gauging the quality of a prospective rehab provider and their inpatient programs helps to answer that question:

1. Consult a medical or clinical professional for their advice. Often a doctor or therapist will have already done much of the vetting of potential referral partners and can provide you with a referral list that you can rely on. Prospective rehab providers that appear on a list of this kind can generally be trusted. As for prospective rehab providers that do not appear on a list of this kind, consider contacting the referring doctor or therapist for their insights. If they have never heard of the provider, more research into the provider’s history, reputation, and treatment programs is an absolute must.

2. Check that the rehab provider is fully licensed and accredited by state and federal governing bodies. Accreditation by the federal Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Health Care Organization (JOINT) or The Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) is crucial. So is licensure by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) for Opioid Treatment Programs. (This license qualifies a facility to store and administer opioid treatment medications on-site.)

Check also that the facility is licensed and accredited by its state healthcare governing body or agencies. For instance, in Florida, the Agency for Healthcare Accreditation, Florida Division of Substance Use and Mental Health (DCF), and the Department of Health enact rigorous quality-of-care standards that healthcare providers must abide by if they are to receive licensure and/or certification. 

3. Look for a strong multidisciplinary program that employs a “collaborative care model” to inpatient care. Research by Harvard’s Kennedy Forum has demonstrated that the integration of medical, psychiatric, clinical, and holistic interventions is associated with better treatment outcomes. Well-integrated care can only happen when a multidisciplinary team of professionals (doctors, psychiatrists, therapists, and other care professionals) is in place to meet regularly to discuss, evaluate and tweak inpatient plans of care.

When vetting any facility, ask them if they have a multidisciplinary team and practice integrated/ collaborative care. Any treatment program worth attending should be utilizing this approach.

A strong multidisciplinary program will also employ science-based interventions, such as neuro therapies and evidence-based psychotherapies. For example, neuro-rehabilitative services and psychological testing can better customize individualized plans of care and provide an empirical measure of patients’ progress in treatment. These neuro therapies should be administered alongside group and individual clinical interventions that need to be well-worth your time (as in proven to boost recovery outcomes). 

On that note, inquire about what group and individual therapies and treatments will be employed in the program and the credentials of the therapists who will administer them. For example, if a program offers EMDR therapy (“Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing”) for PTSD and PTSD-related substance use disorders, then any therapist(s) administering EMDR should be trained and certified in it.

4. Ask for an in-person tour of the facility. If they refuse your request, you can remove them from your list of prospective providers. Any response that is less than totally transparent is a warning sign. If a prospective facility is out of town, you can still ask them for an in-person tour and gauge their response. (You don’t have to tell them where you’re calling from.) 

5. Find out how long the rehab facility has been in operation. Some facilities, such as the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, have been providing inpatient treatment for decades and are household names. Other rehab providers are real newcomers on the block. As a general rule of thumb, look for a facility that has been in operation for at least 15 years or more, because that suggests stability, healthy business practices, and experience in the field. 

6. Check the provider’s Better Business Bureau (BBB) rating. A BBB rating can help you evaluate things like transparent business practices and the number of customer complaints filed, as well as whether these complaints were resolved according to the customers’ satisfaction. 

7. Read online and Yelp reviews but don’t rely on these exclusively, either. Instead, seek out news stories and articles related to the facility. Reviews are worth reading, but news stories are a more objective source when you’re trying to gauge the quality of an inpatient provider and their treatment programs. For instance, if a provider makes the news for its participation in a community service event, that is a positive mark in its favor. Of course, the opposite can also be true: If a prospective rehab provider has made state or national news because of its questionable business practices, (as was the case in last month’s NPR story), you’ll be doing yourself a big favor by eliminating them from your list of prospective inpatient programs.

8. Check out the provider’s website. Photos of the facility, such as a Google 360 tour, help to confirm the transparency of the organization, as do online photos and credentials of the staff. (If there isn’t an abundance of licensed and credentialed staff, be wary.) Look for any awards and recognitions. Check out the facility’s service offerings. 

9. Be wary of any facility that offers incentives to come to treatment. Red flags to watch out for: offers to waive routine co-payments, deductibles and out-of-pocket costs.

10. Find out whether the facility has a compliance program and quality assurance and risk management department. This can be a good way to evaluate a prospective provider’s compliance with healthcare regulations and their commitment to best practices and ethical and high-quality care. 

10 Tips for Gauging the Quality of an Inpatient Rehab Program, from an Expert in the Field


Rami Sleiman

As Chief Operating Officer at FHE Health, a nationally recognized behavioral healthcare provider based in Deerfield Beach, Florida, Rami Sleiman, MBA, BS, CHC, oversees all matters relating to operations, compliance, risk management, and regulatory guidelines and outcomes. Learn more about FHE Health’s addiction treatment programs.

APA Reference
Sleiman, R. (2019). 10 Tips for Gauging the Quality of an Inpatient Rehab Program, from an Expert in the Field. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 21, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/lib/10-tips-for-gauging-the-quality-of-an-inpatient-rehab-program-from-an-expert-in-the-field/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 1 Oct 2019
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 1 Oct 2019
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.