The Referral Process from Start to Finish

Linking people to resources in the community is a key function of case management services. Case managers refer their clients to just about every service imaginable. The referral process can be as simple as a phone call or can be a process involving several steps over a period of time.  This post outlines the basic referral process from start to finish.

Determine Need
The initial phase of the referral process is to determine the service need.  The need is often determined as a result of a phone call received by a parent, family member, or another service provider. Many service needs are determined at the intake when the client initially enrolls in case management services.  This information is then provided to the permanent case manager so that they can begin the referral process. Needs are also discovered at the annual treatment planning meeting.  At this time, the goals and objectives are reviewed and needs may change depending on client progress and preferences.  Of course, service needs can also be discovered at any time depending on individual situations and emergencies that may occur on any given day.  

Review Provider List
The next phase in the referral process would be to review a list of providers. The responsibility of the case manager is to provide choice of service provider and not to make the decision for the client. The case manager can assist with narrowing down providers based on their preferences (location, type of service, etc.).

Schedule a Tour (If Applicable)
After the client has chosen a provider, a tour is usually the next phase of the referral process. Tours are usually scheduled for residential placement, day support services, and vocational placement programs. In most situations, the case manager schedules the tour and attends with the client/family. However, the family has the choice of scheduling and attending tours on their own if they choose to do so. 

Gather Information (Application Process)
The provider has been chosen and the tour has been completed. If the client is satisfied with the tour and wants to start the service, we then move into the application process. In this phase, the case manager gathers information such as treatment plans, assessments, psychological reports, and medical reports. This information is sent along with any formal application.

Intake Meeting
The intake meeting is where the client finalizes his/her admission to the new service.  Treatment plan goals are often updated to include the new provider. Program rules and expectations are also discussed at this time. Most importantly, start dates are confirmed and any other documentation is completed before the client starts services.  At this time, case managers may also coordinate transportation if needed.

Follow Up
Case managers then follow up to determine if the service provider is a good fit.  There is usually a 60 day assessment period for the provider to determine if the provider can serve the client and if the client wants to continue to receive services from this provider.  A meeting is usually held around the 60 day mark. If the client is satisfied, any adjustments to the treatment plan are discussed at this time. If the client is not satisfied or the provider cannot serve the client, then discharge from services is discussed.

Transition to Monitoring Phase
The referral has been completed and services are now in place. At this point it’s the case manager’s job is then to help the client maintain services. The case manager will continue to  monitor services  through monthly phone calls with the client/family/ provider, reviewing reports, and through regular site visits. 



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Martin Gardner
Thanks for visiting Case Management Basics! Martin Gardner is the founder of and Case Management Basics, LLC. Gardner is a mental health professional with over 20 years of experience in the human services field.

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