Putting Boots on the Ground: The Role of the CSW

The Department of Behavioral Health (DBH) in Washington, DC understands that mental illness can impact every area of an individual’s life and livelihood. Issues pertaining to mental health may ultimately affect other things, such as the ability to find and maintain employment, hygiene and personal grooming, and many other aspects of daily life. For this reason, DBH supports a holistic approach to Mental Health Care, including meeting the client in their natural setting, which may include residential, school, workplace, and community settings.

Our Community Support Workers (CSWs) at our PMDC location go out into the community every day and literally meet people where they are. The COVID crisis prompted adjustments allowing CSWs to meet with clients virtually, but many CSWs are still conducting their visits in person.

So what exactly does a CSW do?

Meeting People Where They Are

CSWs report to PMDC’s Clinical Managers, and carry a caseload from 10 – 30 clients. They come alongside the client as part of an Individual Resilience Plan (IRP) prescribed by their DBH. Individual resilience involves behaviors, thoughts, and actions that promote personal well-being and mental health. People can develop the ability to withstand, adapt to, and recover from stress and adversity, and maintain or return to a state of mental health well-being through effective coping strategies. We call this individual resilience.

“One of the most important things you can do on this earth is to let people know they are not alone.”

― Shannon L. Alder

CSWs are responsible for supporting clients in obtaining the resources and skills needed to successfully navigate daily life while living with a mental health diagnosis. CSWs work closely with our therapists and psychiatrist to coordinate care and meet client goals.

Additionally, CSWs coordinate care for clients’ health needs, housing needs, vocational needs, entitlements and other services as individualized to the client. They provide individual interventions for the development of interpersonal and community coping skills, including adapting to home, school, and work environments. CSWs may meet with a client multiple times over the course of a week and may be part of the client’s treatment plan for the duration of their care under Preventive Measures.