The job description of a case manager in the behavioral health field can cover a wide range of duties. But whether you create plans for families to get back on their feet in a community center or monitor chronically mentally ill clients for the county, you’ll work closely with an unstable population that needs guidance. Behavioral health often refers to substance abuse, but could involve people with other mental health conditions ranging from depression to anger management.
The best path to get into the field is through mental health, psychology and human service programs. You can get your foot in the door at many organizations with an associate degree, but you’ll have a much better chance of landing a case manager job with a bachelor’s. A master’s degree in human services usually is required to get into the supervisory end of the field. You’ll oversee a staff that works directly with clients to develop treatment plans and find appropriate services for clients. In a management role, you don’t work directly with patients, but serve more as the public face of the organization in the community and with other health care professionals and human service leaders. Managers often work their way up through the ranks, from case manager to director.
A case manager is the primary point of contact for people seeking behavioral health treatment. It’s the case manager who meets with clients to determine the best plan of action and makes the appropriate referrals. Case managers work for a range of facilities from government mental health agencies to community service programs and nonprofit organizations. The case manager usually is the first person clients see when admitted to a program. Through in-depth evaluations that could include interviews, testing, questionnaires and referral reports, case managers design a program to best suit the individual.
Case managers and their supervisors develop deep ties in the mental health care community to be able to make those referrals. Treatment plans and referrals might consist of housing, education, medical and counseling services, for example. The case manager works closely with each provider to build the entire treatment plan designed to get people back into a productive, healthy place in their lives.
It’s up to the case manager to check in with clients on a regular basis to monitor their recovery. It’s the case manager's responsibility to make sure clients keep appointments and follow through with the recommended treatment plans. If clients are given medication, which is highly likely, then the case manager needs to monitor its results. Case managers follow up by meeting with clients on a regular basis and read reports from the various providers. Case mangers might make home visits and see clients when they’re hospitalized.
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."