Individuals with behavioral health issues pose some unique challenges to case managers trying to connect with them telephonically. Jay Hale, director of quality improvement and clinical operations at Carolina Behavioral Health Alliance, addresses some barriers to successful telephonic case management of behavioral health populations.
Question: What barriers may a telephonic case manager encounter when contacting someone with a mental health issue? What advice do you give the case managers on establishing rapport during these calls?
Response: (Jay Hale) One big barrier we see is making sure we have the member’s correct phone numbers. We want to make sure we have updated information so that we’re calling the correct people.
Another barrier is having the member on the other end trust us enough to accept our help, or accept our support, in their care. I advise our case managers to work with other people who are working with the member early on. We want to work with the hospital earlier, before the person is discharged, to get correct contact information and to let the member know we’re going to be contacting them. We want to be part of that discharge plan and operation, and we want our case management program to be part of that plan as well—a plan that shows the patient is going to the psychiatrist, or a therapist, and that they’re going to be followed up by us telephonically.
When one of our case managers calls a member to invite them to be part of our program, we want to talk to the member about how the program helps them. We want to emphasize how this helps them in their recovery for either a mental illness or for a substance abuse episode. With substance abuse individuals, we want to make sure we use the language they are comfortable with in early recovery—language where we’re making sure we’re supporting their recovery program, they’re working their steps, they’re following through with their meetings, etc. We let them know we understand their situation and we’re supportive of them in their recovery.
With mental health individuals, we want to make sure they feel comfortable with us, that we are understanding their situation, and that we are not here to do counseling. Rather, we are here to support them in their recovery and to help them see the improvements that they’re seeing as they follow through with treatment.
With our child/adolescent population, we’re usually working with the parents. Many parents are appreciative of the support we can give them as they try to help their child or adolescent do better in school, do better at home and have a more successful life early on. We let the parent know we’re not here to blame anyone for any situation the child is in, but rather to support them in having a healthier family and a healthier child.