It also signifies that an organization or program meets standards of quality set forth by the COA accrediting body.
The Society was originally accredited in May 2019, as it became a requirement of one of their funders, Community Living BC (CLBC). Most recently in 2023, the Society embarked on the journey of reaccreditation, reaffirming their commitment to delivering top-notch services to their community. CLBC is the provincial agency that funds the Society’s Community Living Program, supporting adults with developmental disabilities. At the time, the Society had a choice to make, as there are two accrediting bodies in North America for social services agencies, CARF and COA. COA accredits an entire agency and reviews all programs operated by that organization. With the goal of ensuring all programs and services were continuously improving, the Society decided to embark on this journey with COA and to have the entire organization abide by the highest standards set in the sector.
So, what exactly is this accreditation buzz all about? Think of it as a quality assurance label. Just like a seal of approval on your favourite products or services, accreditation means an organization has gone through a rigorous third-party evaluation to ensure that they meet or exceed certain standards of quality, effectiveness, efficiencies, and ethical practice. Imagine it like a comprehensive health check-up. Just as you'd want a clean bill of health, the Society aims for positive reviews and outcomes when it comes to meeting these standards. It is not just about doing the minimum; it is about excelling in every aspect to provide exceptional support and services, while also looking to identify areas of improvement.
A Glimpse into the Reaccreditation Process
For the Society, this year’s reaccreditation process was about far more than just ticking off boxes. It was a chance to demonstrate their unwavering dedication to the community's well-being. While a recurring annual report is submitted to COA, reaccreditation occurs every four years. It requires a rigorous amount of work to be done and evidence to be submitted across a range of 13 standards, being rated on over 400 standard subsections. These include Administrative standards, such as Human Resources, Performance and Quality Improvement, Governance, and Finance, Operational Service standards, such as Training and Client Rights, and Program standards for all services operated by the Society.
The first part of the reaccreditation process involved the submission of “self-study” evidence. This digitally submitted evidence included 272 policies, procedures, reports, documentation, and administrative samples that show how the Society is abiding by the high standards set out by COA. The next step in the process was the submission of “on-site evidence” which involved the submission of hundreds, if not thousands, of additional pieces of evidence. All this evidence is reviewed by assigned Peer Reviewers, who are trained experts in the field and have worked for organizations who are COA accredited. As the final, and arguably most important step in the process, the Peer Reviewers participated in a three-day visit with the Society. This visit included reviewing sample personnel files and program participant files, conducting interviews with relevant frontline staff, directors, board members, and program participants relevant to each standard, and physically touring the programs’ building sites.
About the Peer Reviewers
The Society benefited from the feedback of two amazing Peer Reviewers, Kathy Cook and Yvonne McSkimming, who visited the buildings in Kamloops, Merritt, and Penticton. Kathy, Team Lead from South Carolina, had a background in education, residential homes, and treatment centres and has volunteered with COA as a reviewer, team leader, and Commissioner for over 25 years. Yvonne has over 39 years’ experience in the social service industry, with a PhD in Social Science and a Master’s degree in Leadership/Psychology, Yvonne was the founder and Executive Director of Synergy Collective Society, a non-profit organization on Bowen Island that works with other non-profit organizations to raise much needed money and inspire social responsibility. She currently works as the Clinical Administration and Standards Compliance Officer at the Orchard Recovery Centre.
A Soaring Success and Renewed Ongoing Commitment
Before the Peer Reviewers left, a summary of their findings, omitting the final ratings across the standards, was presented to members of the Executive team, Board members, and the Director of Quality Improvement. The summary discussion saw multiple members of the Society and COA team becoming visibly emotional, as heartfelt compliments were received and comments made on the hard work that is being done by the Society, amidst countless societal crises happening across the province. One reviewer reflected on how 7 out of the 9 program participants who they interviewed opened the discussion by stating “ASK Wellness Society saved my life” – before even introducing themselves and sharing their name.
Seven business days after the site visit concluded, the Society received an email from COA stating that they were expedited through the Pre-Commission Review (PCR), meaning the Society was reaccredited! This was a significant milestone indicating that the Society hadn't received any out-of-compliance ratings across fundamental practice standards, which are standards related to health, safety, and risk management. No out-of-compliance ratings across fundamental practice standards speak volumes about their dedication, hard work, and impact on the lives they touch.
Reaccreditation isn't merely a formality for the Society; it's a reaffirmation of the respect and trust we have built across the communities we serve. It assures the community that they can rely on the Society for top-tier support, services, and care. This reaccreditation journey is also not a one-time effort. It is an ongoing commitment. The Society understands that maintaining high standards is not just about a single evaluation. It is about continually striving for improvement and staying true to their promise to the individuals that they serve. In essence, COA reaccreditation for the Society is a testament to the unwavering dedication to excellence. It is a testament to tireless efforts in creating a positive impact on the lives of the individuals they support and an assurance and commitment to the community that the Society will continue to uphold these high standards.
-- By Andrina Tenisci