Aspire to Excellence - CARF Accredited

Northern Lakes receives 3-year national accreditation

At Northern Lakes Community Mental Health Authority (NLCMHA), we have met the requirements of CARF International for full accreditation for three years (through May 2021) for all twelve programs for which we applied.

This achievement is the highest level of accreditation that can be awarded to an organization and signals our commitment to continually improving services, encouraging feedback, and serving the community. We put ourselves through a rigorous peer review process and demonstrated our commitment to offering programs and services that are measurable, accountable, and of the highest quality to a team of surveyors during a three-day on-site visit.

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

According to the formal CARF report, “NLCMHA is a long-standing organization with a sound reputation. There is an evident culture that strives toward excellence in delivered services, with resulting effectiveness and success for persons served. The leadership and staff are complimented and congratulated for this achievement.”

“This accomplishment reflects the hard work of Northern Lakes staff who focus on what is most important – being the premier provider of behavioral health care to the people of our communities,” said Karl V. Kovacs, Northern Lakes CEO. “Our staff do outstanding work on a daily basis and it is gratifying to have their efforts confirmed in this way.”

The surveyors noted that NLCMHA enhances the quality of life of the consumers by supporting their recovery, health, and well-being.

Other strengths noted:

  • Focusing primarily on persons with severe and chronic mental illness and with persons with developmental disabilities, the organization effectively serves patient populations that are often neglected and underserved. Its services allow consumers to live in their home communities and be more productive and independent than would otherwise be possible.
  • Consumers interviewed during the site survey noted that they felt comfortable going to NLCMHA because it “does not feel like an institution.” In addition, people served “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.”
  • Staff members consistently stated that they always try to meet their consumers wherever they may be. This means forming their interventions based on the emotional and psychological condition of each consumer and going to whatever geographical location best meets the consumer’s needs. They had little difficulty providing numerous examples of how they have gone into the community to meet consumers in places that were either more convenient or more tolerable for their unique conditions and needs.
  • Referral sources and funders express appreciation for the services that the organization affords the consumers mutually served across the system. They describe NLCMHA as transparent, and solutions oriented.
  • Leadership has developed an organizational culture that embraces feedback, reflection, and action in support of continuous quality improvement.
  • The Board of Directors is highly engaged and educated about the nuances of behavioral health care funding and the political landscape. Board members report that the CEO does a great job of capturing data and information from management and synthesizing and sharing it with the board. Members report that the CEO has created a culture of collaboration and advocacy.

In addition, the CARF report identifies innovative programs among NLCMHA strengths, including:

  • NLCMHA Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (OBRA) involvement with nursing homes fills a needed gap with the elderly community through identification of mental health issues, networking for community resources, and assisting with health care needs.
  • The MI Choice Waiver program (Northern Health Care Management) is a second example of NLCMHA’s taking the lead in care within the area. The Northern Health Care Management Division provides comprehensive services for persons who are nursing home eligible and choose to receive care at home in ten counties.
  • The organization is effective in dealing with crisis situations. The rapid and flexible approach used in its crisis intervention program has helped keep people out of high risk situations, involvement with the legal system, and institutions.
  • NLCMHA established a crisis service program for children to decrease the incidence of children going to the emergency room by sending crisis workers to schools, homes, or wherever the child is to provide de-escalation interventions.
  • 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 prevention program uses the myStrength app to provide information to help understand the symptoms of mental illness and offer practical self-help tips that aid members of the general communtiy in coping effectively with the stressors of daily life. It is practical and easy to use. In a comparatively short period of time, use of the app has grown well beyond the predicted number of users that had been expected when the app was first funded, and its popularity continues to increase.

The latest accreditation is the fifth consecutive three-year accreditation that CARF has awarded to Northern Lakes since its formation in 2003.

To read the full report, visit