Northern Lakes Awarded Three-Year CARF Accreditation

Northern Lakes Community Mental Health Authority (NLCMHA) has been accredited by CARF International for three years (through May 2024) for all twelve programs for which it applied.

The latest accreditation is the sixth consecutive Three-Year Accreditation that CARF has awarded to Northern Lakes since its formation in 2003.

This accreditation decision represents the highest level of accreditation that can be awarded and signals the organization’s commitment to continually improving services, encouraging feedback, and serving the community. Northern Lakes put itself through a rigorous peer review process and demonstrated to a team of surveyors during an on-site visit its commitment to offering programs and services that are measurable, accountable, and of the highest quality.

“This achievement is an indication of your dedication and commitment to improving the quality of the lives of the persons served,” said Dr. Brian J. Boon, CARF President/CEO. “Services, personnel, and documentation clearly indicate an established pattern of conformance to standards. Your organization should take pride in achieving this high level of accreditation.”

The formal report issued by CARF surveyors also complimented and congratulated NLCMHA leadership and staff.

“Despite the current COVID-19 pandemic, NLCMHA continues to offer essential services to the community. NLCMHA’s leadership and management team members are energetic and highly motivated to support the growth and development of the organization while balancing a genuine concern and interest in the welfare of the persons served. NLCMHA offers a comprehensive variety of services to treat the person holistically,” the report noted.

Kari Barker, NLCMHA Director of Quality and Compliance, and whose team provided leadership and coordination of the internal review and site visit by CARF surveyors, was gratified to receive this praise.

“This has been an extraordinary time. Remarkably, two of the three years covered by this CARF audit happened during the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only did we have to provide services in ways we had never done before–with telehealth and new face-to-face safety protocols— we simultaneously had to hold virtual meetings and prepare for our first virtual audit with all-electronic proofs of performance for CARF. It speaks loudly to how well we adapt and communicate internally and externally, while continuing to meet and excel at the standards, maintain satisfaction levels, and provide high quality services,” said Barker.

Other strengths the report noted:

  • Persons served who were interviewed during the site survey expressed appreciation for the way that all staff members treat them with dignity and respect and always convey a sense of truly caring about their progress and well-being.
  • NLCMHA has a strong peer support program. These staff members are integral parts of treatment teams and fully utilize their skills to bring consumers special perspectives and insights that only they can provide.
  • Several external stakeholders and personnel spoke highly of NLCMHA’s community participation and community events. The organization’s prevention program is an active participant in a wide array of community efforts to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness and developmental disabilities and to provide information about available service resources.
  • Direct service staff members spoke positively of how the organization addresses the safety needs of the consumers and the providers. The organization is praised for addressing safety concerns through the assessment process for newly admitted consumers.
  • Local law enforcement has been provided with iPad® devices, allowing immediate access both from NLCMHA and first responders. One of the obvious benefits involves greater access for consumers along with coordination of care.
  • The organization’s assessment and referral program has worked to develop relationships with various providers in the community and accepts referrals from a very diverse array of sources and also works to accept those referrals 24 hours a day, 7 days per week.

The report also noted use of the myStrength app to provide a community benefit. NLCMHA subscribes to myStrength to provide the app to everyone living in its six-county service area so they may receive access to information to help understand the symptoms of mental illness and practical self-help tips that aid members of the general communtiy in coping effectively with the stressors of daily life.

Joanie Blamer, Interim Chief Executive Officer at NLCMHA, said, “This accomplishment reflects the hard work of Northern Lakes staff who focus on what is most important – the persons and communities we are honored to serve.”

“Our staff do outstanding work on a daily basis and it is gratifying to have their efforts confirmed in this way. The pandemic has been hard on all of us, especially persons served and front line staff, and more people than ever in the community have sought help in a crisis with anxiety, depression, grief, and loss. We feel very blessed and proud of the way we have been able to grow stronger as a team and stay laser focused on supporting people across the lifespan in these unprecedented times. It truly has been ‘all-hands on deck’ for almost three years now and our staff has risen to the challenges,” Blamer said.

Barker said, “We are very pleased and proud to receive this high level of accreditation. We may never again have an audit like this one, in the middle of a pandemic. The result reaffirms our staff’s dedication and commitment to improving the lives of the persons we serve and the high quality of the services they deliver. They are well deserving of this recognition.”

With offices in Cadillac, Houghton Lake, Grayling, and Traverse City, NLCMHA serves adults with severe mental illness, children with serious emotional disturbance, and individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the six counties of Crawford, Grand Traverse, Leelanau, Missaukee, Roscommon, and Wexford.

CARF is an independent, not-for-profit accrediting body whose mission is to promote the quality, value, and optimal outcomes of services through a consultative accreditation process that centers on enhancing the lives of the persons served. Founded in 1966 as the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities, and now known as CARF International, the accrediting body establishes consumer-focused standards to help organizations measure and improve the quality of their programs and services.