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A woman and her therapist discussing case management for Los Angeles drug rehab

When a person enrolls in an outpatient treatment program for addiction or a mental health disorder, case management is a critical component of their treatment plan. But what is case management, and how does case management help with the recovery process?

What is Case Management?

Case management is a practice that was originally developed in the context of social work practice. A case manager is a person who works as an advocate for clients who are experiencing complex and difficult issues. A case manager helps their client locate integrated treatment options that go beyond detox and rehabilitation. They work to create a treatment plan that addresses all of their client’s needs.

While case management is rooted in social work, case managers are not necessarily social workers. To be a helpful case manager means having a  familiarity with many different disciplines, therapeutic modalities, and treatment approaches. Case managers should be able to recognize problems and help clients connect to helpful resources. They should be able to provide many different kinds of assistance, ranging from help with scheduling doctors’ appointments, finding housing, and getting retrained for new employment.

Case managers work with many different kinds of clients. Individuals for whom case management can be beneficial include:

  • People with chronic mental illnesses
  • Homeless or formerly homeless individuals
  • Convicts or ex-convicts
  • Individuals recovering from drug or alcohol use disorders

What Case Managers Do

When working with clients, case managers are generally expected to provide six fundamental types of assistance. In the context of addiction rehab, these types of assistance are especially important. When working with a case manager, clients can expect:

  • Screening and assessment: Case managers are often responsible for conducting an initial assessment of a new client. They can help evaluate the client’s strengths, treatment needs, current condition, and specific recovery goals.
  • Locating resources: Case managers are responsible for helping clients connect with any resources they may need. This may mean helping them find a doctor, brokering services through the Department of Health or their insurance, or connecting with community partners.
  • Developing case plans: The main purpose of case management, whether treatment is short-term or long-term, is to assist the client in finding the resources necessary for becoming self-sufficient and healthy. A case plan is basically a roadmap for the future. Case managers create case plans with as much feedback from the client as possible, and the client must affirm the plan. Each step of a case plan must help the client make tangible progress toward overcoming addiction, recovering from mental health disorders, and rebuilding their life.
  • Determining eligibility for benefits: After a client has agreed to a case plan, the case manager works to ensure that the client is eligible for benefits. This can range from insurance coverage to Medicaid and Medicare. Case managers can help clients get access to food by helping them qualify for food stamps, disability benefits, or even social security. Sometimes this entails working with outside resources, such as churches, support groups, and nonmedical treatment services.
  • Evaluating progress: Case managers conduct regular check-ins with clients to ensure that they are making steady progress toward their goals. When necessary, they make periodic changes to case plans to ensure that the steps of treatment are always aligned with the needs of the client. Caseworkers track clients’ progress using milestones, which help determine the efficacy of a given plan.
  • Recording case progress: Caseworkers also leave a paper trail. This is often helpful for legal and financial reasons. It is also important in case a client decides to leave rehab and return at a later date.

What are the Benefits of Case Management?

When an individual is recovering from a drug or alcohol use disorder, they often need to make use of a wide variety of treatment resources and therapeutic modalities. Having a case manager can ease the burden of organizing and coordinating these many outpatient services. Moreover, case managers are skilled at taking a long-term review of addiction recovery. They can often recognize what a client’s future needs will be far ahead of time and make necessary preparations.

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