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10 questions treatment centers should be able to answer for patients

April 30, 2018
by Tom Valentino, Senior Editor
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The moment individuals battling addiction are willing to enter treatment can be emotional and tense for both the individuals themselves as well as their loved ones. Finding an appropriate treatment program is a challenge on its own, but NJ Connect for Recovery has released a new resource to help navigate the uncharted waters: a list of 10 questions providers should be able to answer about their programs.

NJ Connect for Recovery, a confidential call line provided by the Mental Health Association in New Jersey, provides those in crisis with emotional support, education, access to treatment, and family and peer guidance. The list of questions was created through a collaboration of call center operators and the service’s clinical staff, says Claudia Beljean, NJ Connect for Recovery insurance specialist.

“We’ve noticed that some of these questions were coming up on the call line,” adds Joanne McCarthy, director of Call Center Services. “People, when they’re looking for a place to get their loved one into treatment, they’re often in a crisis state. They’re asking all these questions because now they have all these decisions to make and they don’t know how to make them. So, we wanted to come up with a few guidelines that can help families if they want to place a loved one into treatment.”

Among the issues covered in the list of questions are the various levels of detoxification, differences in clinical modalities, individualized treatment plans, and the qualifications of staff members. (The full list of questions can be found below.)

“We’re encouraging our callers to inquire about the staff’s credentials at a facility to ensure there are licensed professionals, including medical doctors, advanced practice nurses, psychologists, licensed clinical social workers, clinical alcohol and drug counselors, so that they have the qualifications to provide the care that is being offered,” Beljean says.

The questions also cover the use of interns on staff and supervision.

“Not that using interns is a bad thing—most facilities do use interns,” Beljean says. “But we want to make sure that, No. 1, there is appropriate supervision, and No. 2, that there is licensed clinical staff doing most of the clinical treatment.”

Adds McCarthy: “Substance use disorders counseling, it’s complex and a tough population to work with. A lot of times, it can take a toll on the people doing it. There’s a high rate of burnout. It’s important that there is appropriate supervision. … We want our callers to ask, ‘Is your staff well taken care of?’ It’s part of self-care. They’re going to do much better with clients if they’re taken care of.”

Other topics addressed include the use of medication-assisted treatment, post-treatment planning and data to demonstrate treatment centers’ effectiveness (and the means by which the data is collected).

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10 questions to ask treatment providers, courtesy of NJ Connect for Recovery:

  1. Is withdrawal-management (detox) offered as part of inpatient or ambulatory treatment?
  2. What clinical modalities are offered and will my loved one receive an individualized treatment plan?
  3. What are the staff credentials?
  4. Are the therapists and workers supervised and who provides the supervision?
  5. What is the staff-to-patient ratio? How much individual and group therapy do individuals receive?
  6. Is your facility an in-network provider? Do you do any additional testing that would not be covered under my insurance plan?
  7. Is medication-assisted treatment (MAT) available?
  8. How does a person step down from treatment once they complete aftercare?
  9. What data do you have to show the effectiveness of your program?
  10. How much can families be involved in treatment? What kind of support is available for them?


Addiction professionals annually convene at the National Conference on Addiction Disorders to share what’s working: Clinicians hear from thought leaders on delivering treatment, while executives of behavioral healthcare organizations learn how to run more effective, more efficient, and ethically minded businesses.

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