2016 NWCDC

Mental Health Matters

Progressive companies focus on behavioral health issues to enhance recovery from workers’ compensation injuries.
By: | November 30, 2016 • 2 min read

The mental health of employees impacts their healing process as well as their productivity on the job.

“Mental health is always in the top three reasons … for absence,” said Kimberly George, senior vice president, Sedgwick Claims Management Services Inc., at a “Mental Matters: How Mental Health Impacts Productivity and Performance” panel on Wednesday, Nov. 30.

About 6,000 workers’ comp professionals and specialists attended the National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Conference® & Expo at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans.

Scott Daniels, director of disability, global benefits, Comcast NBC Universal, said that in revamping his company’s absence management program, the impetus was “about changing the employee experience,” rather than generating return-on-investment.

“We really need to focus on the intersection of physical and mental health.” — Hilary Mitchell, director of employee health absences, Pitney Bowes Inc.

The program requires all employees who file a short-term workers’ compensation claim to be evaluated for mental health issues, he said. The company leverages its employee assistance program for not only assessments, if the employee does not prefer a specialist, but also to help fill out claims paperwork.

Comcast pays for five free sessions with the EAP for employees, which it will expand to 10 sessions next year, Daniels said. It also pays the copay for employees who see their own specialists.

In six months, the company saw a 4 percent to 5 percent decrease in claim duration and a relapse rate that currently is “extremely low.”

Hilary Mitchell, director of employee health absences, Pitney Bowes Inc., said her company’s program includes physical and mental health education, on-site nutritionists and clinicians, tiered network and preventive drugs, a psychologist on retainer for executives, and a “dial ohm” telephonic meditation program.

Pitney-Bowes requires and pays for behavioral health assessments for all employees filing disability or drug abuse claims, she said.

“We really need to focus on the intersection of physical and mental health,” she said, but Mitchell noted that the “biggest challenge … is getting the word out” about company-provided benefits.

The late Anne Freedman is former managing editor of Risk & Insurance. Comments or questions about this article can be addressed to [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

4 Companies That Rocked It by Treating Injured Workers as Equals; Not Adversaries

The 2018 Teddy Award winners built their programs around people, not claims, and offer proof that a worker-centric approach is a smarter way to operate.
By: | October 30, 2018 • 3 min read

Across the workers’ compensation industry, the concept of a worker advocacy model has been around for a while, but has only seen notable adoption in recent years.

Even among those not adopting a formal advocacy approach, mindsets are shifting. Formerly claims-centric programs are becoming worker-centric and it’s a win all around: better outcomes; greater productivity; safer, healthier employees and a stronger bottom line.


That’s what you’ll see in this month’s issue of Risk & Insurance® when you read the profiles of the four recipients of the 2018 Theodore Roosevelt Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Award, sponsored by PMA Companies. These four programs put workers front and center in everything they do.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top,” said Steve Legg, director of risk management for Starbucks.

Starbucks put claims reporting in the hands of its partners, an exemplary act of trust. The coffee company also put itself in workers’ shoes to identify and remove points of friction.

That led to a call center run by Starbucks’ TPA and a dedicated telephonic case management team so that partners can speak to a live person without the frustration of ‘phone tag’ and unanswered questions.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top.” — Steve Legg, director of risk management, Starbucks

Starbucks also implemented direct deposit for lost-time pay, eliminating stressful wait times for injured partners, and allowing them to focus on healing.

For Starbucks, as for all of the 2018 Teddy Award winners, the approach is netting measurable results. With higher partner satisfaction, it has seen a 50 percent decrease in litigation.

Teddy winner Main Line Health (MLH) adopted worker advocacy in a way that goes far beyond claims.

Employees who identify and report safety hazards can take credit for their actions by sending out a formal “Employee Safety Message” to nearly 11,000 mailboxes across the organization.

“The recognition is pretty cool,” said Steve Besack, system director, claims management and workers’ compensation for the health system.

MLH also takes a non-adversarial approach to workers with repeat injuries, seeing them as a resource for identifying areas of improvement.

“When you look at ‘repeat offenders’ in an unconventional way, they’re a great asset to the program, not a liability,” said Mike Miller, manager, workers’ compensation and employee safety for MLH.

Teddy winner Monmouth County, N.J. utilizes high-tech motion capture technology to reduce the chance of placing new hires in jobs that are likely to hurt them.

Monmouth County also adopted numerous wellness initiatives that help workers manage their weight and improve their wellbeing overall.

“You should see the looks on their faces when their cholesterol is down, they’ve lost weight and their blood sugar is better. We’ve had people lose 30 and 40 pounds,” said William McGuane, the county’s manager of benefits and workers’ compensation.


Do these sound like minor program elements? The math says otherwise: Claims severity has plunged from $5.5 million in 2009 to $1.3 million in 2017.

At the University of Pennsylvania, putting workers first means getting out from behind the desk and finding out what each one of them is tasked with, day in, day out — and looking for ways to make each of those tasks safer.

Regular observations across the sprawling campus have resulted in a phenomenal number of process and equipment changes that seem simple on their own, but in combination have created a substantially safer, healthier campus and improved employee morale.

UPenn’s workers’ comp costs, in the seven-digit figures in 2009, have been virtually cut in half.

Risk & Insurance® is proud to honor the work of these four organizations. We hope their stories inspire other organizations to be true partners with the employees they depend on. &

Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]