A Day in the Life of a Disability Case Manager

Pictured left to right: Mara Moore, PRIDE Industries Employee, Thomas Andrews, PRIDE Industries Case Manager and Counselor.

Pictured left to right: Mara Mooney, PRIDE Industries Employee, and Thomas Andrews, PRIDE Industries Case Manager and Counselor.

Since 1966, PRIDE Industries’ goal has been to create meaningful work for people with disabilities—and in the process, help individuals rise above them. PRIDE’s founding members were on to something big: When people are nourished by the power of purpose, their spirits soar, their talents blossom…and their disabilities disappear.

48 years later and nearly 5,000 strong; PRIDE’s mission continues to fuel our efforts. No matter what role we perform at PRIDE, together we strive to – create jobs for people with disabilities. Like everyone else, people with disabilities have strengths and challenges. Our structured approach provides a support system that includes Job Coaches, Case Managers/Counselors, and Supervisors who understand each person’s disability and are able to help with their day-to-day challenges.

Renee Shoaf, PRIDE Industries Case Manager at FOSSAC in San Diego, shares a bit about her position here:

There is no easy way to describe a typical day in the life of a disability counselor; each day is different and unpredictable.

The challenges a disability case manager encounters are diverse in nature and vary in complexity. A day at work may include helping an employee apply for a discounted bus pass, explaining different health insurance options, or coaching an individual on appropriate workplace behavior.  

As a counselor serving individuals with disabilities, I wear many different hats and need to switch them sometimes at a moment’s notice. My hats include educator, influencer, resource specialist, advocate, trusted advisor, conflict mediator, “psychologist,” and even “den mother” on some days.

The niftiest thing about working for PRIDE Industries is that all of the employees I collaborate with are allowed “do-overs.” PRIDE provides a safety net in a society that – far too often – passes judgment based on superficial appearances. Aside from behavior that is egregious or malicious to the point where it endangers someone’s safety, employees understand that they may receive a ‘get out of jail free’ pass on an initial indiscretion and have ample space to learn, grow, and make positive changes. At PRIDE, we encourage the development of individuals and understand that mistakes will be made. Like everyone else, each person with disabilities has different learning styles, and their disability can affect the way information is processed or retained. Reminders and repeated instructions are bountiful in our environment, as such they are not perceived as a burden or impediment to accomplishing the assigned tasks.

Recently, I had an employee escorted off the premises due to an inappropriate act. In this case, my role entailed referring the individual for assessment and preparing documentation based on the findings to help a third-party entity evaluate whether this person could be granted a second chance. Indeed, the individual was granted a second chance. Despite the incident, it turned out to be a gratifying experience for all involved when we were able to reinstate the individual back to work.

Unfortunately, outside factors affect our job, which calls for my “messenger of bad news” hat. Because our site is based on a government contract, the work we perform depends on the funding we receive, which can create instability and risk. For example, when the government shutdown in the fall of 2013 happened, I had to explain how this affected us, and what this meant to some of our employees who understandably worried about their jobs. If you’ve ever had to make sense of something that is complicated and with many layers, perhaps you can appreciate the degree of difficulty this entailed. 

Nonetheless, the most important part of my job at that time was to be a realist, yet a hopeful optimist to someone whose dream of being self-reliant has been finally fulfilled through their job at PRIDE Industries. At the end of the day, we’re all powered by purpose. On behalf of all the staff working for PRIDE, regardless of our respective roles, I believe we all agree that we are very fortunate to be collaborating on such a wonderful mission – to create jobs for people with disabilities!

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