This Friday we will be conducting the 12th Hot Seat Webinar, looking at innovative new Return to Work programs, and focusing primarily on Washington L&I’s new Vocational Recovery Project. The episode is titled, Building a Better Workers’ Comp Outcome Through Vocational Recovery. Guests will be Vickie Kennedy, Washington L&I Assistant Director for Insurance Services, Ryan Guppy, Chief of Return to Work Partnerships, Washington L&I, and Jason Parker, President and Senior Work Disability Consultant of Centrix Disability Management Services.
Washington State has just rolled out an entirely new set of rules for the Vocational Recovery Project, but it has been in development for some time. As I wrote back in 2018:
Starting back in 2014, the department of L&I launched an effort to improve the return to work rate for their injured workers while lowering the amount of long-term disability cases they were seeing. They launched an aggressive program designed to get injured workers into the hands of Vocational Counselors faster and to more effect. On the faster front, they took a VRC referral rate that was running over 350 days and reduced that time to an average of 68 days. They also made an intensive effort to partner with the VRC community, improving communications and encouraging them to “step beyond the box;” to look for and work on solutions using methods that were not directly addressed within their regulations. As part of this effort, they suspended a somewhat contentious audit process that caused angst within the VRC community. In short, L&I started making a concerted effort for their voc system to concentrate on positive outcomes instead of rote process.
The results since the inception of that effort have been impressive. The state has seen a 20% reduction in the number of long-term disability cases – a number that equals about 800 workers every year. Director Joel Sacks, in a presentation to the group reported that the state is starting to see a reduction in “expected expenditures” of about two billion dollars.
In the Hot Seat, co-host David Langham and I hope to explore this effort a bit further, as well as discuss what other states could do to start rebuilding what has become, for many, a stalled or abandoned effort. Parker, who is a consultant and has worked extensively with L&I on this program, has conducted many hours of focus groups with injured workers. He understands better than most in the industry what goes on in the mind of the people in our care; what motivates them and what makes their attitude go south.
Restoring function and getting injured workers back to health and productive societal roles is essential for the workers’ compensation system today. We can no longer continue to focus on closing claims without regard to the impact on the health and well-being of not just the injured worker, but the society in which they live. Programs like the Vocational Recovery Project are on the leading edge of what must become a trend.
Seeing if it can pass muster and gain a following should make for an interesting program. The webinar runs at 12 noon eastern time this Friday, February 28th. Registration is free and may be accessed here. It is sponsored by Safety National.
We’ll see you in the Hot Seat.