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A Case for Case Management

By: Allison Frost, Associate Consultant, NaBITA

Case management is vital component of effective behavioral intervention practices and is quickly expanding within the field of education. Schiemann and Molnar define this as providing “goal-oriented and strengths-based assessment, intervention, and coordination of services to students experiencing academic, personal, or medical difficulties in order to assist them in removing barriers to success and increasing their holistic well-being.”[1] Whether your team or campus utilizes case management as a process or a specific position, here are some tips to create clarity and guidance.

Define Case Management: Case management in the educational setting has pulled from the medical and social work fields. The goal of case management is to assess the risk level and needs of the individual/situation, create an appropriate action plan, broker relevant services and resources – including assistance in making those connections, and provide follow-up and ongoing support. By defining these attributes, the services and limitations are clear for case managers (or those assisting with the case management process) as well as the students you serve.

Communication and Transparency: Develop clear communication regarding the role and scope of case management. This includes the definition referenced in the previous paragraph, as well as explanation of privacy (FERPA, private vs. confidential, release of information forms, etc.), and what the expectations are from those engaging with case management. Consider various modalities to share this information: intake paperwork, websites, marketing materials and even an “elevator pitch” that is provided verbally when meeting with students.

Prioritizing a Strength-Based and Goal-Oriented approach: As included in the definition, maintaining a strength-based and goal-oriented approach is critical to case management. This reinforces the functionality of case management while also ensuring the avoidance of “scope creep” into areas that are more clinical or therapeutic by refraining from discussions of resolving past issues or diagnoses and treatment plans. When the conversations moved toward these topics, case managers should feel confident in maximizing referral options to reiterate the boundaries of their role.

Balancing Standardization and Individualization: The case management process is structured to create a consistent, standardized approach while also having discretion to tailor referrals and support based on the individual needs of the student. Case management should be utilizing the same objective risk rubric used by the BIT/CARE Team. These tools and practices lessen the risk of bias or emotional response impacting the case management plan. By consistently incorporating risk assessment and appropriately associated intervention options, those involved in case management are able to be creative and resourceful within specific parameters, rather than attempting to create a unique action plan for every case they encounter.

[1] Schiemann, M., & Molnar, J. (2019). A Practical Guide to Case Management in Higher Education. NaBITA.