Community-based case management effectiveness in populations that abuse substances

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The number of persons who are substance abusing has been increasing globally. A majority of them remain in their communities, untreated. Empirical studies have shown some positive impacts of case management on substance abuse. However, studies that systematically synthesize the effectiveness of community-based case management with populations that abuse substances are limited.


To review evidence of the impact of case management in improving treatment of substance abuse among adults in community settings.


The Cochrane processes guided this systematic review. PubMed, CINAHL, PsycINFO, Ovid and the Web of Science were searched to retrieve primary studies published from 2000 to 2013. All randomized controlled trials were considered for review. The methodological quality of the studies was assessed.


The initial unfiltered search identified 506 references. A total of seven randomized controlled trials were selected for review. Findings show that, compared with clinical case management and usual care, community-based case management services significantly improved clients' ability to abstain from drug use, reduced social problems, supported unmet service needs and improved satisfaction. Studies also showed reduced use of healthcare services, but results were mixed.


There is an evidence base for practicing case management among adults who are substance abusing. In general, studies concluded that case management is an active and assertive method of care coordination for formal substance abuse treatment. Further research is needed to assess case management's cost-effectiveness and the impact of dosage on client outcomes.

Implications for Nursing Policy:

Because of the complexity of population health management across settings and over long time frames, evidence-based strategies are required to achieve health improvements. Because it provides continuous and timely care, healthcare leaders and policymakers should consider community-based case management as an important strategy for coordinating the care in populations that are substance abusing.

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