Months of preparation, one and a half days of on-site interviewing and site visits, 877 required standards. And after the reading of the preliminary findings report by surveyor Don Rowe, The Higher Standard Project (THSP) team must hold its collective breath for five to six weeks before hearing back from CARF International.
Founded in 1966 as the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities, CARF is an independent, nonprofit accreditor of health and human service. According to their website, “The CARF accreditation process starts with a provider’s commitment to continuous improvement and culminates with external review and recognition that the provider’s business and service practices meet international standards of quality — with all the steps in between focused on optimal outcomes for the persons the provider serves and sustained organizational success.”
This accreditation process was a part of the plan from the beginning, when Bell Socialization Services and the York County Office of Veterans Affairs teamed up to consider opening a residence to serve military veterans looking for an alternative to typical half-way houses as they transitioned out of Treatment Court.
The Higher Standard Project home has only been open since November 11, 2018, so it’s a little early to seek a formal review – the three-year mark is more typical, according to Rowe. And Terry Gendron, director of the county’s Veterans Affairs office, acknowledges that the program is still in its infancy, but says it’s helpful to have some objectivity with a program that has some complexity to it. With a lot of moving parts, Gendron says, “it makes sure we’re on the right path.”
Indeed, there are a number of partner players involved with The Higher Standard Project, including: Veterans Wellness Court, VWC Mentors, Adult Probation, neighbors of the residence, the Regional Police Department, and, of course, Bell Socialization Services and the Veterans Affairs office.
Jamie Stevens, THSP program coordinator, took a big exhale as the exit interview wrapped up. “This was a long process and a lot of hard work,” she said, “I learned a lot.”
Stevens and the Bell team agreed that the process is worthwhile. “We will do everything we can to be sure that this program is performing at its best level,” she said.
Lori Leister, Bell’s assistant director of mental health services gave kudos to Stevens for her efforts. “There’s a lot involved in learning and understanding new terms and how things are to be done,” she said. “Now that we’ve gone through the review, I can see how it’s all connected and how good it is to have all the policies and best practices in place.”
In his summation of the program’s strength, surveyor Rowe said: Stakeholders interviewed reported the highest level of satisfaction with the services provided by The Higher Standard Project. It is evident that this program is meaningful and is making a difference in the lives of veterans who have been and live there.
Based upon Rowe’s recommendations and suggestions in his full written report, CARF will assess how well THSP meets the rigors and standards and determine at what level it earns CARF accreditation.