CARF health home standards integrate physical and behavioral health care

New accreditation standards incorporate APA input

By Legal and Regulatory Affairs staff

August 30, 2012—CARF International, an independent, nonprofit accreditor of health and human services programs, released last month standards for the accreditation of health homes. CARF’s health home standards, which incorporate comments submitted by the American Psychological Association (APA), focus on integrating physical and behavioral health care in health home delivery models.

CARF, which was founded in 1966 as the Commission for Rehabilitation Facilities and currently accredits more than 48,000 programs and services, describes the health home as a “health care delivery approach that focuses on the whole person and provides integrated health care coordination.” CARF’s use of the term “health home” (rather than “medical home”) and the specific mention of both primary care and behavioral health care in the standards emphasize the importance of treating both mind and body in integrated care settings.

This approach to care delivery was advanced by the Affordable Care Act, which created an optional Medicaid State Plan benefit to help states develop health homes to improve care coordination for patients with chronic conditions. To receive health home services, Medicaid beneficiaries must have: 

  • Two or more chronic conditions; 

  • One chronic condition and be at risk for a second; or

  • One serious and persistent mental health condition.

Medicaid health home providers are expected to integrate and coordinate all primary, acute, behavioral health, and long-term services and supports to treat the whole person.

Additional information about this program is available from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services on the Health Homes page at Medicaid.gov. CARF’s health home standards and accreditation procedures are open to all providers, not just Medicaid providers.

APA involvement

APA was involved in the development of CARF’s health home standards through its participation in the CARF International Advisory Council (IAC). The IAC includes organizations and individual members representing a broad range of stakeholders. IAC members are given an opportunity to review proposed standards before they are released for public comment, and are also encouraged to propose topics for standard development or revision and to recommend candidates for the CARF International Standards Advisory Committees.

APA’s comments on the proposed health home standards, most of which were accepted, were aimed at making sure the language was inclusive of psychological services. APA also provided comments that promoted the integration of mental and behavioral health services in NCQA’s Patient-Centered Medical Home standards, which were released last year.

As health homes and other models of integrated care continue to be developed, APA will continue its efforts to ensure that mental health is included as an essential component of whole-person care.

Additional information about CARF accreditation is available online. 

For more information, contact the Legal and Regulatory Affairs department by email or at (202) 336-5886.