The Arc of Jefferson County recently received a two-year certification through the Alabama Department of Mental Health.  It’s the highest level of certification an organization can earn in the review process.

According to The Arc’s Associate Director Nancy Cook, the way the state reviewed agencies serving those with disabilities changed this year.  In the past, the Arc’s certification process took place at the facility level, meaning each residential home or day activity program center was certified and received their own individual score.  This year the Department of Mental Health looked at The Arc overall.

“This year’s certification included new standards and a different process than what we’ve experienced in the past,” says Cook.

The state looked at thirteen different factors and sent representatives on site visits to evaluate the Arc on each one of them.  To earn the two-year certification, the Arc scored 100 percent on three of them – which included safety, best possible health and protection from abuse and neglect.  In the remaining factors like staff resources and rights protection, the Arc scored 90 percent or more.

“This new certification process is more focused on the individuals served and their responses and the information they know on the services,” says Cook who noted the department did more interviews with those being served at The Arc of Jefferson County than ever before.

“We are doing more of that at The Arc anyway,” says Cook.  “Lengthy interviews with each person we serve.  We want to make sure they are experiencing the things they want to experience through the services we provide.”

The Alabama Department of Mental Health reviews service providers across the state to monitor the programs provided to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  A provider needs the certification to literally stay in business, and also receive state and federal funding.  Typically the state hands out one year certifications but does award two-year ones.

“It’s exciting to get the two years across the board,” says Cook.