Suicide Crisis: Ozark Center has accreditation for mental health

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JOPLIN, Mo. — Freeman Health System’s Ozark Center is boasting a recent accreditation score.

High marks mean officials are “doing something right” when it comes to treating mental health.

KSN’s Jessica Schaer has more in the next part of our series — “The Suicide Crisis: Prevention, Information, and Awareness.”

“CARF stands for Commission of Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities,” said Debbie Fitzgerald, Ozark Center Dir. of Crisis Services.

The Ozark Center has been CARF accredited since May 2014, and has been renewed every 3 years — an honor since some facilities only receive one-year accreditation or no accreditation at all.

The center’s last report from October 2020 was basically spotless.

“Literally, there are accredited services in 28 locations that Ozark Center provides services. And, the exciting news was, that they found no findings or recommendations. And they cited us for having excellent conformance,” said Fitzgerald.

More than 8 thousand providers, internationally — including the Ozark Center — agree to conform to a certain set of standards through the CARF accreditation.

“What CARF really encourages us to do at Ozark Center is to strive to have excellence. And excellence in leadership, excellence in services that we provide,” said Fitzgerald.

Anywhere from 4 to 6 surveyors come to the Ozark Center and spend 3 full days sifting through how the facility operates.

“Looking through literally hundreds, if not thousands, of standards to see if we meet those in providing our services,” said Fitzgerald.

Those standards include things like educating the community, staff training, and providing safety plans to families of someone seeking mental health help.

“It pushes us to find out what’s the latest and best treatment that’s evidence -based, and then incorporate that into our services,” said Fitzgerald.

For example, the Ozark Center uses what they call an “alert banner” in a person’s medical record for any provider who accesses it.

“If somebody’s had a recent suicide attempt, you can tell that because there’s a little color on the chart, and, that way, anyone in any building that sees the individual knows to ask, how are they doing now?” said Fitzgerald.

The accreditation can be a badge of honor, but more importantly, it means someone seeking mental health can know they’re in good hands.

“Our goal is to enrich and improve the lives of those that we serve, at any location, with any difficulty they may be having,” said Fitzgerald.

If you know anyone struggling with their mental health — and they need someone to talk to — we urge you to call the “Suicide Prevention Hotline” at 1-800-273-talk.

We also have more resources for you on our website — under our “suicide crisis” tab.

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