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CARF and NIATx™ find common focus on the person served

NIATx deputy director calls the two organizations' processes complementary 

October 19, 2011, Tucson, Arizona -- The CARF International accreditation process and the NIATx model of process improvement share the same goal: to improve the lives of persons who are receiving services.

"The NIATx model for process improvement complements the CARF accreditation process," said NIATx Deputy Director Todd Molfenter, Ph.D. "CARF's standards promote improvement in service delivery and reflect quality practices in the field. We consistently hear that the NIATx model helps organizations conform to CARF's standards."

Founded in 2003 as the Network for the Improvement of Addiction Treatment, NIATx works with addiction treatment and behavioral healthcare organizations across the United States to improve access to and retention in treatment for the millions of Americans seeking help with substance abuse or mental health issues. NIATx is a learning collaborative within the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Health Enhancement Systems Studies.

The CARF International family of organizations, including CARF, CARF Canada, and CARF-CCAC, is an independent, nonprofit accreditor of health and human services, including behavioral health programs.

Seven Hills Foundation Senior Vice President/CPO Kathee Reville agrees that the CARF and NIATx processes are complementary. "Each has a goal of quality improvement, and each encourages organizations to conduct a thorough, internal review," she said. The Seven Hills Foundation offers a continuum of support and services for individuals with disabilities and other life challenges in more than 80 communities throughout Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The organization has earned CARF accreditation for several of its Seven Hills Family Services, Inc., and Seven Hills Behavioral Health, Inc., programs and also participates in the NIATx review process. Reville continued, "The outcome of both processes has been positive for the Seven Hills Foundation. It has focused our organization's attention on areas that are outstanding, which we can disseminate throughout the organization, and on areas in which we can improve."

CARF International's ASPIRE to Excellence® is a framework of standards for logical business practices to guide a service provider through a continuous cycle of quality improvement. The ASPIRE standards include assessing the environment, setting strategy, obtaining input from persons served and other stakeholders, implementing the plan, reviewing the plan, and effecting change.

The CARF accreditation process begins with the service provider consulting with a CARF resource specialist and performing a self-evaluation. After the provider applies a rigorous set of CARF standards for a minimum of six months, a CARF survey team of peers conducts an on-site survey to determine the provider's conformance to all applicable CARF standards. The accreditation decision is based on the surveyors' findings. Accreditation, however, is an ongoing process. A provider achieving accreditation must submit a Quality Improvement Plan to outline actions it will take in response to areas for improvement identified in the report. On each yearly anniversary throughout the term of accreditation, the provider reaffirms its ongoing conformance to the CARF standards.

In a complementary fashion, the NIATx model of process improvement is quality driven, customer centered, and outcomes focused. The process begins with a complete walkthrough to understand customer needs, decide what is to be accomplished, and identify how progress will be evaluated. Then the provider selects and tests changes. To sustain gains, the provider uses what it has learned from patients who sustain recovery.

NIATx initiatives are built on its four aims: reduce waiting times, reduce no-shows, increase admissions, and increase continuation. The aims are expansive and can include any service delivery area that leads to performance improvement.

The first NIATx principle is to understand and involve the customer (person served). Similarly, the CARF accreditation process is centered on enhancing the lives of the persons served. Providers that achieve CARF accreditation have demonstrated a commitment to listening to the expectations of the person served, communicating in a way each person served understands, making services accessible, involving the person served in outcomes planning, and monitoring the satisfaction with services.

"Knowing that many CARF-accredited providers use the NIATx model, we completed a crosswalk of the two processes to determine compatibility," said Nikki Migas, CARF managing director for Behavioral Health. "We found that CARF accreditation supports the NIATx model and that the NIATx aims fit well within the requirements of the CARF standards."

For more information about NIATx, visit More information about the CARF accreditation process is at

10/19/2011 12:05:00 AM

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