Substance Abuse Case Management Best Practices

Given that up to a half of individuals who receive treatment for substance abuse will relapse–most within a year, this post by Social Solutions Global, an American human services management software company, highlights three important research-based strategies to ensure effective case management and lasting positive outcomes.

1. Identify patients with complex needs

Most chemically dependent individuals can benefit from case management services, but a number of groups have been found to benefit most from a more complex, integrated approach to treatment and support services that addresses their unique needs. These groups comprise:

  • Young adults requiring additional assistance in the area of life skills development and supervision;
  • Individuals with long histories of treatment and recovery attempts;
  • Clients who function well in a residential setting but have difficulty with recovery and non-clinical needs as an outpatient;
  • Individuals with multiple areas requiring ongoing management;
  • Chemically dependent individuals with medical and legal difficulties associated with previous substance abuse; and
  • Older adults requiring assistance coordinating their overall medical and psychological care.

2. Engage clients by meeting immediate needs and building trust

In the face of long waiting lists and prolonged intake procedures, the early engagement stage of substance abuse case management can reduce internal and external barriers to treatment. By addressing substance abuse patients’ basic needs early in the process, a case manager can help reduce the stress of immediate concerns, build trust, and ensure frequent opportunities for interaction with clients in a positive way. This early relationship can be critical if the individual experiences difficulties and challenges later in the treatment process.

3. Assess ability to access services independently

The focus of this approach to substance abuse case management is to help individuals access a range of services. Ideally, by training clients on how to access services, they will in the future be able to obtain those services themselves and function more independently.

Under this approach, a case management assessment should first evaluate the client’s service procurement skills and employment skills. Examples of the former include the ability to obtain and follow through on medical service or apply for benefits; examples of the latter include potential for independence, basic reading and writing skills, transportation skills, and punctuality. Case managers can use the process of connecting a client with services as an opportunity for teaching the individual how to obtain similar services in the future. Ongoing employment training and services can also be integrated by the case manager where needed.

This post will be helpful to employment practitioners working with clients who are dealing with substance abuse issues.