Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

63P Case Management Mentoring: An Evaluation of An Innovative Social Work Initiative

Friday, January 13, 2012
Independence F - I (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
Catherine C. Breneman, PhD, Adjunct Faculty, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA
Purpose: Mental health case managers provide a crucial service for supporting people diagnosed with serious and persistent mental illnesses in the community. This essential work is often provided by case managers with limited work experience and education. As part of an extensive mental health system transformation in a large metropolitan area, an initiative was developed in collaboration with the county and social work department at a local university to create a curriculum and training for mentoring newly hired case managers. While some training models exist, they are limited in scope and number. This innovative training program included a fifteen-work course taught by the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work for case managers representing all of the mental health agencies in Allegheny County. During the course, the case managers were assigned to work with newly hired staff members and transfer classroom learning into the field. The purpose of the initiative was to address challenges of low retention, lack of skills and knowledge, and ultimately improve service delivery for mental health consumers. This study evaluated the initial implementation of the training program. Methods: This was a mixed methods study completed in two parts. The first part included semi- structured qualitative interviews of the mentors (N=18) at two time points. The second part of the study used focus groups with the newly hired case managers (N=30). Qualitative data was analyzed for common themes. Quantitative data collection included measures of job satisfaction, types of mentoring activities, and the frequency with which these activities occurred. Hierarchical linear regression was used to analyze job satisfaction data. Results: The results of the study indicated that the mentoring program has been beneficial for the mentors and the newly hired case managers. The new hires reported that they learned their jobs more quickly and that the mentors were a great resource, in addition to other ways that they learned about their jobs. The mentors and the new hired staff reported engaging in many of the tasks taught in the course with regular frequency. It was most helpful when the mentor accompanied the new hires and observed them in direct practice. However, due to current billing structure, this occurred with the least frequency. Structural issues were identified as being an important part of effective mentoring implementation, such as having the support of the supervisors and the organizational administration. Newly hired case managers reported being most satisfied with their supervisors, co-workers, and work. They were least satisfied with pay and benefits. Implications: The mentoring program has been beneficial for the case management workforce in Allegheny County. It increased job satisfaction, contributed to a better understanding of job responsibilities, and created a greater sense of professionalism. This study identified the barriers and facilitators of implementation which are being used to improve and develop this ongoing initiative. Potential future research includes exploring the experiences of mental health consumers that worked with the case managers, long term retention and satisfaction outcomes, and a cost analysis.