Who Licenses Mental Health Facilities in California?

, , ,
who licenses mental health facilities in california

Before a mental health treatment center in California is cleared for patients, it must first receive the proper licensing. This is a required step that ensures that patients will be safe and receive proper treatment protocols while in treatment. So, who licenses mental health facilities in California?

What is the Role of the Federal Government in Regulating Mental Health Treatment?

Before we discuss state licensing practices, we must first consider the role of the federal government in regulating mental health. The government is a primary source of funding for mental health services, so it makes sense they would be involved in regulating it.

There are laws that protect people who are in need of mental health treatment. The federal government sees that the ADA, the MPHAEA, and the ACA are implemented properly. It also has a role in funding mental health services, funding research and grants, and protecting patient privacy.

The federal government then passes the ball off to the states so they can expand on the standards expected of mental health and rehab facilities. Each state is able to shape their mental health systems differently through laws and regulations. However, all states must comply with the basic federal mandates in order to receive block grant funding.

About State Licensing

Licensing requirements are established for mental health services at the state level. The purpose of licensure is to provide patients with services that are aligned with state standards of care. Each state offers its own standards required for the licensure or certification of facilities or mental health professionals. These include safety guidelines, staffing requirements, caseload limits, and many other standards that protect the patients and employees.

Obtaining a license to operate a mental health treatment center involves meeting the state defined criteria and completing the process. When planning to open a rehab center or mental health treatment facility you must first file a Certificate of Need application at the state level. Once the CON permit is filed in your state, it is then approved by the HHS.

After becoming licensed, the provider must maintain the license. This requires the center to renew it at intervals, which assures the state that the center is following updated standards. A license to operate a mental health treatment center is not optional – it is required.

Who Licenses Mental Health Facilities in California?

The process of obtaining a license for a new mental health center is something that begins in the early planning stages. In California, the agency you will work with is the Department of Social Services (DSS) and depending on the license type possibly the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS). Social Rehabilitation Facilities for adults and Group Homes for children offer inpatient licensing and certification that cover a broad range of services for these populations.

Addiction treatment centers are also licensed under the DHCS. Programs that exceed the minimum state standards and are in excellent standing with state standards compliance are then DHCS certified. California requires all licensed rehabs to also obtain at least one DCHS level of care designation. This LOC designation may be obtained from either the state or ASAM or both.

Within the DHCS is the mental health licensing (MHL) section that is tasked with ensuring compliance in mental health facilities. The MHL section oversees a range of mental health care facilities. These include psychiatric health facilities and mental health rehab centers. The MHL Section is responsible for ensuring that patients receive care in a safe and healthy environment.

Also included in the MHL section are 5150 facilities in each CA county that offer 72-hour treatment and evaluation. A 5150 hold and assessment is conducted when the person is considered a danger to themselves or others.

How Are Mental Health Professionals Licensed in CA?

In addition to mental health facilities, the mental health professionals that work within them are also licensed by the state of CA. Psychologists that provide therapy in the mental health field are required to be licensed by the Board of Psychology. Psychiatrists, which are medical doctors, are licensed by the Medical Board of California.

A clinical mental health counselor must also hold a license in CA. These professionals are licensed professional clinical counselors (LPCC). The California Board of Behavioral Sciences provides the licensing for an LPCC.

Which Other Licenses Should a Mental Health Treatment Center Have?

  • CARF Accreditation. The Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) is an independent entity that has established industry standards for healthcare providers. This includes providers in the fields of mental health and substance use disorder treatment. Having a CARF accreditation assures patients that they will receive quality, value, and safe treatment. CARF accreditation also sends a message to prospective clients that the mental health facility adheres to the highest standards of care.
  • Joint Commission. Joint Commission is a non-profit, independent agency that certifies behavioral healthcare organizations and programs. Being Joint Commission approved signals to patients that the provider complies with state-of-the-art standards. Joint Commission standards were developed using input from multiple sources. These included healthcare professionals, government agencies, consumers, and various experts in the mental health and addiction treatment fields. Most insurance companies now require programs to be accredited by either the Joint Commission or CARF. Being licensed helps insurers limit damages due to safety violations.

Why Licenses Must Be Renewed On Occasion

As new laws are passed, and new state regulations go into effect, the mental health treatment centers are expected to conform. To ensure that this happens, the state requires treatment facilities and mental health professionals to renew their licenses on occasion. This includes both private behavioral health centers and state-funded community-based behavioral health centers.

Facilities that are found to be out of compliance are given a time period to make needed adjustments in their program or center. In California, the Medical Board of California keeps track of compliance by enforcing the Medical Practice Act. It provides a platform for consumers to research facilities and mental health professionals to seek information about their standing. It also allows consumers in the state to file complaints when they encounter sub-par or unsafe mental health treatment.

Circa Behavioral Healthcare Solutions Can Help You With Licensing

Circa Behavioral Healthcare Solutions provides professional services for providers within the mental health and addiction treatment industry. Now that you are informed about who licenses mental health facilities in California, our team is eager to help you. Contact us today at (888) 458-6619 so we can help you navigate the process.