Navigating the Future of Behavioral Health

COA’s standards for behavioral health services provide a roadmap for delivering integrated care.

As an accrediting body of social service organizations, we aim to help behavioral health professionals strengthen the lifeline they provide to thousands of individuals each year. Improving services for individuals with behavioral health conditions has long been one of COA’s primary goals.  We are committed to giving behavioral health providers a framework that supports the services delivered to this population and to ensure they have the necessary resources to address the differing needs of those who come into care. 

Behavioral Health Services Accredited by COA

A New Era of Behavioral Health

The rapidly evolving behavioral health landscape poses a significant challenge for over half of our accredited organizations. While the shift to new service delivery models  offers tremendous opportunities to improve the quality of care to patients, organizations are faced with an array of new hurdles to overcome, such as: 

  • Embracing the integrated care model 
  • Strategically planning future direction
  • Partnering with other providers 
  • Expansion of services
  • Retaining and training  qualified staff  
  • Meeting the needs of newly-eligible clients  
  • Restructuring payment system

In addition, there is concern among providers that the new model will impede their ability to operate without being absorbed by hospitals and larger medical providers.

Our Response

COA has embarked on an extensive effort to support these organizations during this evolutionary phase. We are focused on ensuring the relevancy of the resources so that they aptly reflect changing industry needs. Our standards, tools, and trainings together act as a roadmap for behavioral health providers as they address current trends. 

Recent Standard Updates and Development

In October 2015, updated standards were released to promote best practices in suicide prevention. To increase the capacity of COA accredited organizations to identify and serve individuals at risk for suicide, COA partnered with a group of national experts, including the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Suicide Prevention Resource Center, National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, National Council for Behavioral Health, as well as COA accredited organizations. Best practices in suicide prevention are now incorporated into the Administrative and Service Environment (ASE), Counseling, Support, and Education Services (CSE), Crisis Response and Information Services (CRI), Mental Health and/or Substance Use Disorders (MHSU), and Training and Supervision (TS) standards. Learn more about these updates. 

In May 2015, we released our new Services for Mental Health and/or Substance Use Disorders standards (MHSU) and updated Counseling, Support, and Education Services (CSE) standards. The MHSU standards emphasize care coordination and incorporate emerging best practices to prepare our organizations for the new age of healthcare reform. The MHSU standards apply to organizations providing mental health services, services for substance use disorders, and services for co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders. The CSE standards have been strengthened to be more inclusive of peer support, an evidence-based practice that has gained significant attention for helping individuals achieve whole-person wellness and recovery.

In January 2014, we introduced the Integrated Care; Health Homes (ICHH). By incorporating language and practice requirements from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the ICHH standards served as an initial step to guide COA accredited organizations in systematically coordinating an individual's behavioral and physical health. Following this release, in November 2014 COA issued a new section of standards for Primary Care Services (PCS).These standards were designed as a roadmap for organizations to use for developing new primary care services as they move into the arena of integrated care. The PCS standards combined with the ICHH standards allow organizations to be COA accredited when they provide the full array of primary physical and behavioral health services. 


COA and CCBHC Crosswalk
This crosswalk compares and aligns the Council on Accreditation’s (COA) standards and the criteria for Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs). It is designed as a resource to inform states that COA accredited organizations possess the capacity to operate as CCBHCs by having already met the criteria set forth through their achievement of COA Private Organization Accreditation.

Medicaid and COA Standards
This tool provides a broad overview of common Medicaid (MA) requirements in relation to COA’s Standards for Private Organizations and Public Agencies.

MHSU – MH & SA Crosswalk
The Outpatient Mental Health Services (MH) and Services for Substance Use Conditions (SA) standards have been combined into one service section, Services for Mental Health and/or Substance Use Disorders (MHSU). The MHSU standards were released on May 28, 2015 and replaced the MH and SA standards as of June 30, 2015. This document provides a crosswalk between the MHSU, MH, and SA standards for Private and Canadian Organizations and Public Agencies.

National CLAS Standards and COA Standards Crosswalk
In April 2013, the Office of Minority Health at the Department of Health and Human Services released the enhanced National Standards for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services in Health and Health Care (the National CLAS Standards). The National CLAS Standards are a set of guidelines that aim to reduce health care disparities and improve overall quality of care. COA developed a crosswalk to demonstrate how our standards align with the National CLAS Standards and support the provision of culturally and linguistically responsive services. This document is a resource for private organizations and public agencies.


Recorded Webinar: Overview of Integrated Care; Health Homes Service Standards for Private and Canadian Organizations and Public Agencies

This recorded webinar introduces participants to COA’s service section, Integrated Care; Health Homes (ICHH). The presenter discusses how the ICHH standards will advance effective practices for systematically coordinating an individual’s behavioral and physical health care to achieve improved health outcomes.

Recorded Webinar: Overview of the New COA Primary Care Services (PCS) Standards for Private Organizations and Public Agencies

In this recorded webinar, Mary Cesare-Murphy, Ph.D. presents on COA’s new service section, Primary Care Services (PCS). This service section is designed to provide an opportunity for organizations to meet the expectations of the ACA and be COA accredited when they provide the full array of primary physical and behavioral healthcare services.

Recorded Webinar: An Introduction to COA and the Accreditation Process for Participants in the CCBHC Demonstration Program

In this recorded webinar designed for states, state associations, and organizations that are participating or will participate in the Demonstration Program for Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics. This introductory webinar provides an overview of the Council on Accreditation and the accreditation process. Participants will gain an understanding of the key concepts that define COA and elements of COA's accreditation process and standards.

Additional Resources

Following is a list of additional resources to support behavioral health integration:


Private Organization Accreditation

One Hope United offers a range of services aimed at our mission of "Protecting children and strengthening families" including early childhood education, early intervention and prevention, family preservation, foster care, residential, and adoption.


Audrey Coleman, RN-MSN

Volunteer Roles: Military Reviewer; Peer Reviewer; Team Leader

My first experience with COA was in 1999 with what was a NC Area Program. I started as a peer reviewer in 2005, doing two to four site visits a year. I am also a team leader and have recently been approved to be a military reviewer.
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