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Case Managers on the Front Lines of Opioid Epidemic Response

Advocacy, Education, and Empowerment for Users of Medical and Nonmedical Opioids

Sortedahl, Charlotte, DNP, MPH, MS, RN, CCM; Krsnak, Jean, MSN/MBA, RN, CCM; Crook, Michelle M., BSN, RN, CRRN, CCM; Scotton, Lisa, MJ, RN, CCM, CDMS

doi: 10.1097/NCM.0000000000000309

Purpose: The purpose of this article is to examine how case managers, taking a holistic, patient-centered approach that is grounded in advocacy, have a crucial role to play in the opioid crisis response. This includes providing education, support, and resources to prevent misuse of and addiction to opioids prescribed for pain management and intervening with more resources to help combat the nonmedical use of prescription opioids and heroin.

Primary Practice Settings: In addition to case managers in acute care, workers' compensation, and palliative care, who have frequent contact with patients who are prescribed opioid medications for pain management, all case managers may interact with patients and support systems/families who are directly or indirectly impacted by opioid use, misuse, and addiction.

Implementations for Case Management Practice: The broad scope of the opioid epidemic necessitates individualized interventions to address the multiple needs of individuals. The case manager, particularly one who is board-certified, has the expertise and knowledge to assess individual needs, identify treatment and other resources, and provide education and support to the patient and family/support system. In addition, given the complexity and life-or-death consequences associated with the opioid crisis, a timely and comprehensive approach is essential, bringing together multiple disciplines in health care, public health, addiction, pain management, social work, mental health counseling, pharmacology, and case management.

Charlotte Sortedahl, DNP, MPH, MS, RN, CCM, is the Immediate Past Chair of the Commission for Case Manager Certification (CCMC), the first and largest nationally accredited organization that certifies case managers. She is also an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire, where she teaches in the undergraduate and graduate nursing programs.

Jean Krsnak, MSN/MBA, RN, CCM, is a CCMC Commissioner. She is also an Acute Care Case Manager at UC Irvine Medical Center. She has more than 20 years of experience as a registered nurse, in a variety of roles including clinician, staff educator, consultant, and case manager. Her experience is primarily in academic centers and across settings including critical care, medical and surgical telemetry, and oncology.

Michelle M. Crook, BSN, RN, CRRN, CCM, is the Secretary and a Commissioner of the CCMC. She has many years of experience as a registered nurse in the health care field and has held a variety of clinical, business, and case management leadership roles, including program manager, health services manager, director of case management and patient services, catastrophic case manager, certified nurse life care planner, and spinal cord injury nurse clinician.

Lisa Scotton, MJ, RN, CCM, CDMS, has more than 15 years of experience in disability management, absence management, and benefits working with major employers. She is active with CCMC, which manages and governs the Certified Disability Management Specialist (CDMS) credential.

Address correspondence to Charlotte Sortedahl, DNP, MPH, MS, RN, CCM, Commission for Case Manager Certification, 1120 Route 73, Suite 200, Mount Laurel, NJ 08054 (

The authors report no conflicts of interest.

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