Before finding out who Case Managers are and what they do, we must know about Case Management and how it works. In broad medical terms, case management is primarily focused on meeting a client’s health and human services needs by way of a comprehensive collaborative process. This process typically involves designing, executing, assessing, and monitoring tailored strategies that aim at the fast recovery of patients.
The people responsible to oversee the entire process are called Case Managers. Through effective communication, advocacy, and resource management, Case Managers work to endorse result-oriented interventions that are also cost-effective for enhanced accessibility. In other words, Case Managers help vulnerable people in society – people with mental illness, drug problems, or personal challenges – in accessing helpful resources that can improve their quality of life by folds.
The job goal for Case Managers is the successful and smooth social reintegration of their clients. Case managers are typically psychiatric professionals who help their clients achieve dependable levels of self-reliance, confidence, and mental strength to become active contributors in their communities while making the transition easier for them. The strategies they devise for each client are bespoke, highly target-oriented, and factor in budget constraints.
Every case manager must know their clients inside out. They must be fully aware of the client’s medical history, personal life, and all existing and potential challenges. There’s no room for any information gaps when it comes to successful mental health case management as they can potentially render the entire process void, risking both the case managers’ efforts and the hard-earned social services funds.
The case managers, thus, ought to have all of their clients’ details at their fingertips. They must know each client’s strengths and weaknesses, their challenges and opportunities, and, above all, their support systems. It’s only through the power of this knowledge that Case Managers can complete successful cycles that effectively support a mentally challenged person in his/her safe and seamless return to the community.
A mental health case manager is typically responsible for:
A mental health case management process can typically have three broad categories, namely initial assessment, needs and strengths evaluation, and follow-ups. A successful case manager will strike an effective balance between the three and manage their focus on each area as per the need. For example, if in the initial screening a case manager finds that the client may be hard to stick to the plan, the follow-ups will be more rigorous than usual. Similarly, how the plan is to move toward a successful conclusion will also depend heavily on the client’s strengths and weaknesses.
In the initial assessment, the case manager takes a deep dive into the patient’s mental conditions, financial status, support system, housing situation, substance abuse history, and more to develop an insightful diagnostic image. This vital information would become the basis of the psychiatric care plan that the case managers carefully tailor for each client.
In this step, the mental health case managers identify the positive aspects of patients’ personalities that can be used to help them return to society as active positive contributors. The case manager, acting in a counseling capacity, also helps the clients use their personal strengths to make their recovery faster, more effective, and permanent for a smooth social reintegration.
It’s crucial for case managers to monitor and keep a close check on the clients’ progress throughout each step of the recovery process. It’s usually in the initial assessment that professional mental health case managers come to learn about the intensity of follow-ups that each client would require. Only a rigorous follow-up will ascertain how well the recovery plan is working for each individual.
The educational prerequisite to becoming a mental health case manager is usually a bachelor’s or master’s degree in a relevant field such as psychology, sociology, social work, and human resources, etc. In some cases, additional relevant qualifications, such as in public administration, can provide you with an edge to improve your chances of becoming a case manager.
Besides having a strong grip on mental health and psychiatric assessment, case managers must also have a passion for social service as the job is tough and requires commitment. This becomes even more vital in some types of case management where the facetime of case managers with their clients is required to be much higher for better and faster results.
The case managers must also be very social, with deep and enduring connections into their own communities. This helps mental health case managers know where to direct patients to have their specific needs met and expedite their recovery and healthy return to society. As the job is all about understanding their clients, the case managers must be observant, flexible, and intelligent.
Today, more employers require mental health case managers to have the right certification on top of their academic qualifications. From the employer’s perspective, such a certification equips you with the right skills and knowledge for the challenging job you’re about to embark on, besides showing your commitment to the profession as well as continued learning.
For example, if you have a BS in mental health services, you can go for board certification as a case manager. In the US, case managers can obtain certification from the Commission for Case Manager Certification (CCM) after meeting the eligibility criteria related to education and experience. Professionals with CCM designation are also required to recertify every five years to be able to continue practicing.
Besides CCM and other similar certifications, there are also various state credentials in the US that mental health case management aspirants can go for.
The career and salary potential of mental health case managers are very promising. The compensation and benefits of professional case managers in the field of mental health effectively correspond to the challenges and sensitive nature of the job. Plus, the career progression of these highly sought-after professionals is also fast and steady.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the growth of the field of social work to be at 19% between 2021 and 2022. This growth rate is much faster than occupational growth in any other field. Some possible factors contributing to this growth can be an aging population of the US, and an increasing number of people requiring health and social services owing to the Covid-19 pandemic and slowed economy.
As for the salary potential, professional healthcare social workers typically make around $49,830 a year, as per BLS stats.
The case managers in the field of psychiatric care can find work in a vast number of facilities. These may include but not be limited to hospitals, psychiatric care clinics, rehabilitation centers, substance abuse clinics, centers built for the homeless, and places of worship like churches.
But the services of mental health case managers and professionals are not limited to just these places; they can go where the needs of their patients take them, including clients’ personal homes, offices, and other places where the patient might feel at home and where treatment may become the most effective.
Based on the needs or preferences of the client, the case managers must be flexible when it comes to choosing the place to provide care to the patient. In some cases, the entire treatment cycle – from assessment to strengths evaluation and follow-ups – must be provided at the place of the patient’s preference for optimal results.
As discussed above, a mental health case manager can be employed at hospitals, psychiatric care clinics, rehabilitation centers, substance abuse clinics, centers for the homeless, and churches. While they have designated offices from where they serve their clients, professional mental health case managers tend to move around a lot to provide care to the patients.
Case managers don’t work in isolation, and rather have a strong team for frequent support in matters related to health, support, and social integration. Case managers also have strong connections in the community to make the patients’ social reintegration efficient and easy. They’re required to remain in close coordination with the local police, hospitals, nursing homes, housing shelters, and doctors to yield the best results out of their treatment regime.
Although case managers work with a specific subset of the population – e.g. teens, senior citizens, etc. – no workday is a typical one for them. Each case is unique and very different from the rest, with the individual needing a certain type of psychiatric care and treatment. This can make the job quite exhaustive for case managers, but they’re trained professionals who usually handle the toughest of cases well.
Whatever the case, the process and regime remain the same in broader terms. There’s an initial assessment that’s followed by strengths evaluation, resource integration, follow-up care, and finally, discharge.
A nurse case manager, or a case management nurse as they’re alternatively called, is a qualified and registered nurse who becomes a mental health case manager. The nurse case manager is responsible for evaluating different aspects of patient care, especially those needing long-term treatment and care. With an emphasis on controlling costs and improving outcomes, nursing case managers develop recovery plans based on clients’ specific needs.
Below are some of the duties that a nurse case manager is expected to perform:
Like any mental health case manager, a mental health nurse case manager can work at a variety of places, from designated psychiatric care facilities to the patients’ places of preference like their personal residences or places of work. Their appointments, treatments, and therapies are not bound to a place and the care can be provided where the patient needs it.
Often, it’s their specialty that influences their work settings. For example, if they specialize in working with the elderly populations, they may be found working at rehabilitation centers, assisted living facilities, and home care facilities, etc. As nurse case managers also work as consultants, it’s not uncommon to find them working with multiple healthcare facilities simultaneously.
The chief premise of mental health case management is to provide the optimum level of wellness, self-reliance, and confidence for social reintegration to people needing psychiatric care. Such patients – who have been exposed to substance abuse, trauma, or personal challenges – may find it hard, often impossible, to return to normalcy on their own. Mental health case managers ensure that the transition is easy, fast, and long-lasting for vulnerable clients.
A case manager’s job is way more than a psychiatric care provider; they have a highly observant as well as an overly stimulant side of the job where they need to understand their clients and the challenges they’re facing and have a strong social network of healthcare, social services, and insurance providers to make each case a success. Although the job is challenging, it is highly rewarding and fulfilling at the same time, besides, of course, being a noble one.
But this is the kind of job only those who are passionate about serving the people and their communities should go for!