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National Prevention Week Blog Series: Independent Case Management Services

In honor of SAMHSA’s National Prevention Week, Workers Assistance Program asked several of its program directors to share their thoughts on prevention, their programs, and how substance abuse prevention and mental health promotion are improving our workplaces, schools, and communities. This is our second post of the day and fifth of the week. It focuses on Independent Case Management Services (ICMS) through the words of its director Jody Snee. 

Independent Case Management Services (ICMS) provides support, advocacy and education for youth involved in juvenile probation, as well as for their families.  Our case management services are active, intensive, and creative. Our approach is strengths-based and predicated on the belief that adolescents are resilient and will respond to intervention. Collaborating with youth and their caregivers, we can help them identify resources, overcome obstacles, and take the steps they need to be successful!

Not all young people start out with the support and resources they require to be happy and healthy. Youth involved in the juvenile justice system frequently experience a myriad of challenges complicating their ability to be successful; they are more likely to experience poverty, low school attendance, lack of mental health treatment, and lack of healthcare coverage. Youth placed on probation also frequently deal with family instability, substance abuse issues, trauma, and exposure to violence.

We’re in the business of systematically removing barriers and capitalizing on our clients’ strengths. Independent Case Management helps youth and families set goals, prioritize, and plan. We help families meet basic needs. We teach problem-solving and communication skills.  We advocate for our clients and celebrate their progress. By connecting young people and their caregivers to appropriate resources and services, we help prepare youth to adhere to probation requirements, achieve goals, and see better outcomes. 

Prevention Week makes us think hard about the services we provide for young people in our community. It makes us consider what young people need early on. It makes us assess our methods for early prevention and what young people and their families need to make healthy choices. 

For the young people we work with, the risk factors are great and the protective factors seem to be too few. By the time we become involved with a young person, he or she has run into more than a few problems. She has likely engaged in significant substance use, experienced high levels of trauma, and has unaddressed medical needs. They likely have poor school performance, aren’t attending school, have engaged in significant substance use, or have been exposed to violence from an early age. They may have parents or siblings who deal with substance abuse or who have mental health concerns.

Because we work with young people who are involved in the juvenile justice system already, we work at a crossroads. The courts have determined a need to intervene with the young people we work with – assigning legal consequences for problem behavior. At the same time, we see an opportunity to support change and growth –to prevent long-term involvement in the justice system, continued substance use, and problem behavior. 

Our work is about bolstering protective factors and reducing risk factors. It’s about building skills and finding alternatives for individual clients. It’s also about supporting broader prevention efforts throughout the community – and not waiting until our kids are on probation. 

We are excited about prevention at all levels and the possibilities for success if we increase our early efforts! We encourage everyone to support prevention efforts in their community. Check out the SAMHSA site for more information on prevention programs, services, and education materials. Prevention makes a difference for our young people and for our communities.