Support for the Stay at Work/Return to Work Policy Collaborative

Official Title
Stay at Work/Return to Work Policy Collaborative Support
United States
Workforce Development
Policy/Program Analysis
Applied Research Studies
Implementation Services
Webinars & Online Training Programs
US Department of Labor – Office of Disability Employment Policy
Literature Review
Social Network Analysis

The US Department of Labor (DOL), Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) has had a strong interest in advancing policies and programs that promote positive stay-at-work/return-to-work (SAW/RTW) outcomes for workers who experience an injury or illness that challenges their ability to work. Building on progress made in the previous three years, DOL/ODEP contracted with IMPAQ International to take the work of the Stay at Work/Return to Work initiative to the next step. The objectives of the present contract were to: 

  1. Facilitate and expand ODEP’s Collaborative Community of Practice (CoP) of key stakeholders focused on policy related to workforce attachment and SAW/RTW: 
  2. Create and support Policy Working Groups (PWGs) with the expertise to address policy and program issues raised by the CoP;
  3. Develop new tools and resources to support improvements in practice;
  4. Collect evidence of best practices and successful strategies;
  5. Disseminate these materials to partners and other stakeholders; and
  6. Develop a series of policy recommendations for the future.

It also conducted outreach to raise awareness about cross-cutting SAW/RTW issues among critical stakeholder groups, and disseminate actionable policy recommendations to inform policy decisions at the state and federal level. Through a collaborative effort with State Exchange Employment and Disability (SEED) initiative, working with the National Council of State Legislators (NCSL), the Council of State Governments (CSG), and the National Governors Association (NGA), as well as through collaboration with other federal agencies, ODEP identified three policy areas for us to focus on:

  1. Replicate/Adapt Center for Occupational Health and Education (COHE) Strategies – The Washington COHE model provides coordinated care by trained health service coordinators who work directly with medical providers, employers, and injured workers to coordinate care and return to work, targeting those who need the assistance (as opposed to early intervention strategies for all cases). Identify key elements of COHE leading to success and strategies to adapt these elements to other circumstances, such as non-occupational injuries/illnesses, states with privately run workers’ compensation systems, and varied funding mechanisms.
  2. Strategies for Addressing Musculoskeletal Injuries and Pain Management, with a particular focus on the use opioids – Many work-related injuries occur to the back, for which doctors are increasingly prescribing opioids, both short-term and long-term, to address pain. Examine how the use of opioid pain relievers affects workers’ return to work and review evidence of the effect of “closed prescription formulary” approaches for opioids on return to work.
  3. Strategies to Facilitate SAW/RTW: Partial Disability, Partial Return to Work, and Employer Subsidies – Permanent partial disability (for individuals who cannot return to previous employment), partial return to work, and temporary disability are strategies employed in a limited number of states that may be worth expanding. Other strategies including wage subsidies and reimbursement for worksite modifications and other accommodations costs may enhance the effectiveness of these options.