Behavioral health case managers work with patients who usually have some degree of mental illness. Their primary function is to help these patients learn how to manage daily life. This can result in a wide variety of duties that can vary with each case. You will likely do some of your work out of an office, but the nature of the services you will be providing means you will also go to your clients at home and in medical facilities.
A large part of your duties as a case manager in behavioral health will be helping patients establish a long-term treatment plan for each of their particular mental health problems. In order to do this, you will sometimes assess a patient’s mental health and make a diagnosis before proceeding to make a plan. These plans can include self-care and working with other mental health professionals to line up the care that your clients need. In some cases, you may also assist your clients with paperwork and help them get to their appointments.
As a case manager in behavioral health, you will sometimes offer more practical assistance to your clients. They may need help doing things such as grocery shopping, budgeting and setting personal goals. You may also help them improve their parenting skills and their relationships with family and friends. You will try to find support services and benefits to help your clients’ lives improve financially and otherwise.
Mental Health Facilities
While you will complete some of your work in an office, in many cases you may be required to travel to a mental health facility to meet with your clients. These facilities can include hospitals, substance abuse facilities, behavioral health facilities, juvenile detention and prisons. You may work in one of these facilities full time, as some employ their own case managers. Your position may specialize in a certain age range, or you may work only with children, adults or geriatric patients, but all will have some degree of mental illness or other mental health problem, such as addiction.
Experience and Education
A case manager in behavioral health requires a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, preferably in a related field, such as social services or psychology, but in some cases a different bachelor’s degree may be acceptable if you also have experience in the mental health field. Because of the sensitive nature of the position, you may be required to obtain and maintain a fingerprint clearance card. You must be able to maintain a flexible schedule and work with a diverse patient population. You will need some basic computer skills to maintain client records and help your clients submit forms and applications to various services. In positions that require travel to your clients, you will usually need a valid driver’s license. In some cases, being bilingual can be a great asset.
The average annual wage of a case manager in behavioral health varies from $25,770 to $70,300, but the national average is $45,820 as of May 2014, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Experience, education, geographic location and the type of facility where you are employed affect how much you can earn. In general, case managers tend to make more on the coasts, particularly in the Northeast, and the least in parts of the Midwest and the South. You will likely make more working for hospitals than for residential care facilities; working for the government tends to offer slightly more than average, with a salary of $49,510.