December 20, 2022

Memorial Health System to Participate in Study Called RETAINWORKS

The University of Kansas Health System Care Collaborative for Western Kansas is facilitating a study in which they are calling RETAINWORKS (Retaining Employment and Talent After Injury/Illness Network) funded 100% by U.S. Federal funds totaling $21,600,000 granted to the Kansas Department of Commerce for a four-year period. 

The money will be incrementally provided to the U.S Department of Labor and the Social Security Administration in order to support RETAINWORKS.  In this national study, Kansas was one of the five states chosen to participate in this program.  The state was then divided into five local areas.  Each participating health system is paired with a workforce development board in that area.

With two and a half years remaining of the grant that is set to end in May 2025, Memorial Health System (MHS) has chosen to join the study, and help add referral numbers to the program. 

The main objective for RETAINWORKS is to help Kansans who are effected by an injury or illness, that may have long lasting effects, stay at work or return to work more quickly and more successfully.  Being able to keep an employee no doubt benefits the employer, but more importantly, this program works to benefit the employee who is susceptible to the adverse effects one can suffer after losing employment.  When an individual loses their employment new health conditions may arise.  A person who loses their sense of purpose and ability to contribute to their family, in the ways in which they become accustomed, can experience increased anxiety, depression, and social isolation; all common among those who lose employment.  When these things happen, substance abuse is also a common theme that follows.  The ball doesn’t stop rolling there; permanent unemployment and poverty is not far behind.  When individuals can’t return to work it can actually become costly, not only to the individual but to their family, their employer, and ultimately the whole community. 

The current disability culture; disability defined as an injury, illness, or medical condition that has or could inhibit or prevent continued employment, is held up by the efforts of the workforce center and the employer.  With RETAINWORKS a third system is being added, the medical system.  Disabilities don’t always occur at work.  In fact, most happen away from work and are not supported by Worker’s Compensation.  Some examples of these include chronic illnesses like COPD or diabetes, a fall that takes place while working on a chore at home, and most recently, the impacts we have seen from COVID on the stalling recovery periods. 

Dr. Ziegler will be the provider to champion this program at MHS.  He and other support staff will be provided the appropriate training/education to begin implementation of the program which will include establishing new processes to the existing workflow in several areas.  Once MHS staff are prepared, approximate begin date in January 2023, any provider at MHS can start to identify potential candidates for the program by recognizing concerns and/or complaints by the patient regarding the ability to attend, produce, or perform at work.  After confirming the concern and/or complaint, and making sure other preliminary criteria is met, the provider may then introduce RETAINWORKS to the patient and ask them to participate in the study.  If the patient agrees, a referral form and activity prescription (assessment on the patient’s activity level) is completed.  If the patient is chosen from the enrollment process, it will be determined whether they are in the control group or the treatment group, as it is important to have both in order to measure the success of any study.  If the patient enters the treatment group, a coordinated care plan will be put into motion and the patient will begin to work not only with Dr. Ziegler and his health care team, but also RETAINWORKS providers, Workforce One representatives, and the patient’s employer.  With all having the same goal in mind; to get the employee back to work.  Whether that means the same position in which they left, or another position in which they are capable of performing.  RETAINWORKS focuses on the employee’s health and wellbeing; taking a holistic approach to rehabilitation.  With a team of professionals carefully coordinating the integration of medical services with workforce center services, it is the hope that this improved approach will help keep people employed.  At the conclusion of this study, if RETAINWORKS proves to have enough success stories, it could create a culture where employment is supported, and is a priority outcome for medical treatment.

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