Case Management for Teens

When you are suffering from substance abuse, or are close to someone who is, chaos becomes the new normal.  At the core of addiction is arriving at a point in your life where some, if not all, of it is unmanageable.  The longer addiction goes on, the more chaotic the situation gets.  Not only does someone suffering from addiction begin to lose control of their lives, their family and close friends begin to become affected by the chaos that follows addiction.  While it’s true for spouses, siblings, and close friends, nowhere is it truer than with parents.

Even before a struggle with addiction, a significant portion of a parent’s life can be devoted to helping a child navigate the (often) disconnected systems that they grow in. Balancing a child’s educational, family, vocational, and social needs is tricky even under the best of circumstances. When a teen begins using substances, a family will be wrapped up in several new systems designed to help treat and manage the addiction—each with their own different way of supporting a child.  Before, the parent(s) were the only one(s) making decisions for their family.  Now, suddenly, there may be an eight member “treatment team,” in which each member may have a different recommendation for you and your child—an experience that can be quite overwhelming.

Case management is designed to help make this experience more manageable for both the family and the client, and is particularly effective and important in treatment for adolescent patients. At this stage in their life cycle, adolescents are seeking to forge their own identity and looking for things that they can effectively control—even if that thing is negative.  At times, people may continue to do damage to their lives and their relationships because they stay in control of how much damage occurs, and when.  Case management, executed properly, gives the patient a voice and choice in moving forward out of addiction, helping collect information and options, and then presenting them to the patient and, as appropriate, their family.

“Case Management” isn’t a term in use much outside of the treatment community, but some can shy away from it, thinking that it’s only for the truly desperate or truly sick.  Indeed, case management was the purview of the earliest social workers in the early 1900s, associated with the extreme poverty of the great depression and the treatment of those placed in asylums.  However, most modern parents have probably done “case management” for members of their family.  At its core, case management is a step-by-step process of identifying goals, researching and finding resources that will help reach those goals, and then gaining access to those resources. If a member of your family wanted to sign up for a youth sports league, you’ve likely seen this “case management” process at work. The goal was identified (wanting to play a sport), then there was a search for local leagues, and the parent most likely coordinated the process of filling out the application—telling the child when they had to get physical clearance from the doctor, coordinating transportation to practices, and the like.  A professional case manager will go through a similar process for a patient and their family, with the added benefit of having a great deal of knowledge about the complexities of levels of care, medical necessity, and insurance networks—something that many don’t deal with on a day-to-day basis. You can expect a case manager to meet with you and your family, listen to each person’s goals and desires from a treatment process, and then work to identify and connect various members of the family to the services that will help them get to where they want to go.  These services could be as informal as connecting to a local youth group, or as formal as a referral to a hospital—again, all depending on the specifics of the particular case.

Since case management is, by definition, a process that helps an identified patient reach his or her goals, it makes sense that it’s been proven effective in both preventing the worsening of all sorts of health conditions and hastening the recovery of a serious health condition.  Behavioral health conditions, like substance abuse and mental health issues, are no exception to the rule. Particularly in youth, access to case management has been shown both to reduce the likelihood of developing a substance use disorder and to help maintain recovery after treatment for a substance use disorder.

More and more health plans, both commercial and government, are seeing the benefits of case management and funding early access to this service, particularly for adolescents. Many times, initial symptoms can be unclear in adolescents, as early presentations of various behavioral health disorders look similar.  With good case management, as the case keeps evolving, case managers ensure that families get connected to different organizations and specialties that may be most appropriate to treat their condition.  Because of that, it’s never too early to get connected to case management.  Since case management is typically available at all levels of care, from prevention to detoxification, there is truly no wrong way to start to access these needed services. If substances are a concern, consultations are typically available for free at a local treatment provider like Clear Recovery Center. They will help identify the severity of the problem, and help you access any case management and treatment benefits you have under your plan.

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