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  • Writer's pictureMuhammad Sair Khan

IMS Certification for Behavioral Health Facilities




Prior to 2016, residential treatment centers were not able to legally treat medically related issues in their facilities. Patients who required additional medical attention were transferred to an off-site medical facility where they could be monitored and tested.


Now, with an IMS certification approved by the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS), residential treatment centers in California can perform and bill insurance companies for medically-related treatment.

Some services include:

  1. Obtaining medical histories;

  2. Monitoring health status;

  3. Testing associated with detoxification from alcohol or drugs;

  4. Overseeing patient self-administered medications;

  5. Treating substance abuse disorders, including detoxification.

These services are part of a comprehensive approach to addiction treatment and can help patients receive a higher quality of care.



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Obtain Medical Histories


Before a patient begins treatment, they will undergo and intake assessment by a facility staff member. The assessment is used to inform the treatment team of the patient’s condition so that they are able to provide the highest level of care. The IMS Certification Form requires that the medical history of the patient is collected by a physician, helping ensure the highest level of care during detox from drugs or alcohol.

Monitor Health Status


Each patient is closely monitored and has their vitals checked every 30 minutes for the first 36 hours, and at a minimum, three times daily throughout the rest of their stay. If their condition is unstable, they are transferred to a nearby medical facility.

Testing Associated With Detoxification From Alcohol or Drugs


Testing such as urine drug screens, blood alcohol tests, and other laboratory analysis is used to effectively treat and monitor detoxification. With an IMS certification, these tests can be administered onsite while the patient is in treatment.

Treating substance abuse disorders, including detoxification


Overcoming addiction requires a coordinated effort between the patient, facility treatment team and in some cases, the off-site primary care physician. Many times, MAT (medication assisted treatment) is used to help a client remain abstinent. IMS allows treatment centers to provide this type of medication;

Oversee Clients Self-Administering Medications


Clients who enter treatment are allowed to continue taking previously prescribed medication. This is overseen by IMS certified treatment center staff.

Insurance Requirements for IMS


Shortly after the IMS certification became available to treatment centers, some insurance companies began denying their members treatment from non-IMS certified facilities. The problem with this is that at the time, only 80 facilities in California were certified, and the backlog of facilities waiting to become certified was causing longer than usual wait times.


Although IMS certification is intended to improve the quality of treatment that behavioral health facilities provide, the sudden restriction and denial of coverage by insurance companies is not only causing problems for treatment centers, but also for patients looking to get into treatment.


It is important that behavioral health facilities seek an IMS certification immediately to avoid being shut out by insurance companies. Click here for a downloadable checklist on how you can get your treatment center IMS certified.

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