Standards Revision Released

The Case Management Society of America in March released a newly revised version of its Standards of Practice for Case Management, which NASW helped revise as part of an interdisciplinary task force.

The CMSA Standards, introduced in 1995 and first revised in 2002, are voluntary practice guidelines for case managers of multiple disciplines working in a variety of health and behavioral health settings. Among other things, they address case managers’ qualifications; assessing clients’ physical and psychosocial health; planning and monitoring goals and evaluating outcomes; termination of services; adhering to legal and ethical principles; advocating at all levels on behalf of clients; cultural competency, managing resources; and keeping abreast of current research.

As CMSA puts it in the introduction to the Standards: “While the Standards are offered to standardize the process of case management [which extends across all health care settings], they are also intended to be realistically attainable by individuals who use appropriate and professional judgment regarding the delivery of case management services to targeted client populations.”

Many social workers function as case managers, says NASW Senior Practice Associate Karyn Walsh. She was one of the NASW staff members directly involved in the revision process.

“Social workers in aging, health and mental health serve as care managers or coordinators for clients facing a number of challenges, including illness and injury, mental and behavioral health needs, and individual and family challenges,” Walsh told NASW News. “Clients facing these challenges can benefit from professionally qualified case managers who practice these standards to provide optimal services.”

The revised Standards reflect broader trends and changes occurring in health care. For example, the standards emphasize addressing clients’ needs holistically — that is, their medical, psychosocial, behavioral and spiritual needs; promoting clients’ and caregivers’ involvement in the decision-making process; focusing on care coordination; and using evidence-based guidelines when such guidelines are available.

NASW’s participation in revising the Standards, Walsh said, is evident in the document’s use of collaborative language that reflects the diverse professional backgrounds of both nursing and social work case managers; enhanced psychosocial focus; content addressing case management in mental and behavioral health and home- and community-based care settings; and strong emphasis on cultural competence and advocacy.

Walsh pointed out that the qualifications section’s recognition of BSWs as professional case managers is also a result of NASW’s collaboration.

Last August NASW had asked members to comment on a draft form of the revised Standards.

“Many social workers — from direct service to management level in case management — provided comments on the revised Standards,” Walsh said. “Their views came from government, public and private sectors, and all of the input was crucial to making the document more accurate and timely to the practice of case management.”

Future revisions likely will build upon the evidence-based guidelines that are proven successful in the coming years, CMSA predicts.

The Standards of Practice for Case Management are available as a free download.