The Importance of Discharge Planning. By: Laura Paparella, LGSW

When patients start the Adult Intensive Outpatient Program at PrairieCare thinking about and planning for discharge can feel overwhelming. Part of the social work role is to assist patients in making this a smooth transition from the IOP to a lower level of care upon discharge. Planning discharge begins once patients start programming in order to ensure that patients have support once they have completed the program. The social worker as well as the treatment team works with patients directly, inquires about what kinds of supports would be helpful (as well as making clinical recommendations based on symptoms) and provide patients with information and referrals to such discharge supports including but not limited to: individual therapy, psychiatry, support groups, day treatment programs, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, case management services, etc.

Patients are asked to play an important role in the partnership between patient and staff by reviewing these options and scheduling follow-up or first time appointments with the information provided to them by staff. This is integral to ensuring a strong discharge plan and helps to reduce the risk of relapse. As a patient you may feel overwhelmed at times with attending programming and also scheduling appointments for discharge but here are some helpful tips to address this:

• Be honest with your providers in the type/kind of discharge support you need.
• Ask questions so that you understand different types of discharge support.
• Start with small, manageable steps toward planning for discharge such as setting weekly goals to review referral information and to call to schedule appointments.
• Process any challenges that arise with staff and/or in group therapy sessions.
• Inquire with your social support network to see if others may be willing to assist you in scheduling appointments or attending first time appointments with you for additional support.
• Ask the social worker if they would be willing to assist you in scheduling appointments (It’s always good to practice this on your own first to encourage empowering self and increasing confidence, however, the social worker is able to also assist you as well).

Discharge planning can be a way to reduce stress as most patients feel more confident in discharging the IOP program if they have a plan in place for additional supportive services. Our goal at PrairieCare and as providers is to assist patients with this process and to provide guidance and support in doing so.