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What Is the Role of the Case Worker or Manager?
Case managers, also known as case workers, are health care or mental health professionals who provide assistance and support to people in need, such as the chronically mentally ill or people with developmental disabilities. They work in various settings, such as hospitals, community mental health clinics and nonprofit social services organizations. Case managers fall under the BLS category, "Healthcare Social Workers." As of May 2011, professionals in this category earned an average yearly salary of $50,000.
Assessments help case managers to develop a comprehensive picture of their clients' lives. When a case manager first meets with a client, he will perform an assessment to gain background information and obtain psychosocial information, such as the client's previous treatment experiences, family history, medical and psychiatric history and social support network. The case manager uses this information to evaluate any unmet needs and to obtain information on what services the client is currently receiving.
The coordination of care services is the primary responsibility of a case manager. Care coordination helps to ensure that a patient's needs are being met and prevents the fragmentation of care, according to the Commission for Case Manager Certification. The exact duties that fall under the category of care coordination vary by organization, but generally involve developing an organizational plan that takes into account all of the services a patient is receiving or needs. The case manager may contact external professionals, such as social services workers or psychologists, on the client's behalf to help to address any unmet needs.
Case managers advocate for their clients, taking necessary steps to ensure that patients who are unable to advocate for themselves don't fall between the cracks. Advocacy is one of the most important elements of case management, according to the nonprofit organization, Recovery Within Reach. It involves representing the best interests of clients with social service agencies, government institutions or other organizations that can provide assistance or needed resources. For example, a mental health case worker might advocate on behalf of a severely mentally-ill client to help arrange for psychiatric care with an intensive day treatment program, or may advocate with the Social Security Administration to help the client obtain benefits.
Case managers may perform additional responsibilities, depending on the specific needs of the client and scope of the organization. They perform administrative tasks, such as compiling and maintaining case files or completing treatment plans. In some cases, case managers may need to transport clients to appointments or meetings with external agencies or outside providers, such as social services organizations or medical facilities. Case managers, mainly those who work with people with mental illnesses or developmental disabilities, may also be involved in teaching social skills or daily living skills, such as grocery shopping, cleaning or self-care measures.
Ashley Miller is a licensed social worker, psychotherapist, certified Reiki practitioner, yoga enthusiast and aromatherapist. She has also worked as an employee assistance program counselor and a substance-abuse professional. Miller holds a Master of Social Work and has extensive training in mental health diagnosis, as well as child and adolescent psychotherapy. She also has a bachelor's degree in music.