This is a story of commitment. Of caring. Of respect. It is a story that embraces and celebrates a future, while remembering and honoring the past. And most importantly, it is a lesson that compassion, love, and support in the form of “family,” real or surrogate, can make all the difference for those who wind up under the workers’ compensation umbrella. 

Officer Steve Favela was killed on the job in 2006 while working for the Honolulu Police Department. According to the police department website:

November 21st, 2006 at approximately 7:10 am, while escorting President George W. Bush’s motorcade onto Hickam Air Force Base on O’Malley Blvd., Solo bike officer, Steve Favela and two other motorcycle officers skid on the wet pavement shortly after entering through the main gate and lost control of their motorcycles.  Officer Favela was ejected from his motorcycle and suffered serious injury.  He was taken to the hospital in critical condition and died 5 days later from his injuries.

He left behind a wife and 4 young children. 

The oldest of those children, Keahi Favela, graduated from Chapman University this year. He earned a degree in Health Science with a focus on pre-med. He also has a cluster, or emphasis, in business and economics. He wants to be a doctor someday. Wait a minute. He is a Kids’ Chance Scholarship recipient. Make that he is GOING to be a doctor someday.

Keahi was awarded his scholarship by Kids’ Chance of Hawaii. A relatively young organization in the Kids’ Chance ecosphere, he is the first of their “kids” to walk across the stage and receive their degree. Earlier this year I had the opportunity to interview Keahi and his sister Kiana, also a KCHI scholar, for a video project associated with the Kids’ Chance National Conference. During that interview they spoke about how the people at KCHI had become a “second family” to them, and how much of an impact the love and caring they experienced had on their educational experiences. 

But that is only part of this saga. 

As a board member of Kids’ Chance of America, I received an update last week that included information about Keahi’s graduation. A link to a video was included. That video showed a tremendous tribute being paid to the young man, a tribute that directly honored the memory of his father. A large group of Honolulu Police Department “Solo Bike” officers made a drive by and stopped en masse to offer their congratulations for his achievement. It is a touching video, and I encourage you to watch it here.

The thing that must be pointed out here is the time that has elapsed between the accident that took Steve Favela’s life and day this video was recorded. The accident was 15 years ago. Many of those officers may have never met the man, nevertheless they still showed up to honor his son for the achievement. 

Police are notorious for supporting and remembering their fallen brethren. These officers didn’t just show up after a fifteen-year hiatus. We can probably safely assume that this family has felt that love and support from the men and women in blue across the years and through the tears. It is an inspirational thing to see.

Imagine, if you can, what workers’ compensation could be if we could foster that familial environment for injured workers of all professions. Today, our “process and close” mentality doesn’t consider the long-term needs of the injured worker beyond the signing of the final settlement documents. Most injured workers or survivors left behind don’t have a surrogate family to embrace them, support them, and understand their issues. 

Our “business as usual” is “Thank you, have a nice day, but don’t have it here.” That doesn’t foster any environment for long term mental health and happiness. That can change. In fact, it must change.

There is a growing movement in the industry that is starting to force us to look at the “whole person” when dealing with workplace injuries. There is a growing recognition that the attitude and mental health of the injured worker – indeed of their entire family – has a tremendous influence on the physical outcomes they achieve. If we can improve support in the emotional realm, we will improve the health and recovery those workers achieve. 

And we will likely lower the costs of the process, since a byproduct of this action would be reduced frictional expenses. And perhaps that is why the meaning of “family,” both real and surrogate, should matter so much to those of us in the industry.

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