Possible role description for the state workforce agency

Jennifer Christian MD

One state asked me to describe the role of the state workforce agency, so I started imagining it.  This is what I see:  (I did not re-review the RFP/FOA before writing this, and you DEFINITELY should do so!)  And of course you may have other (better) ideas.

With RETAIN, the government is taking its first steps to establish an invisible social infrastructure of relationships and understandings about how to work together that will enable professionals in DIFFERENT SECTORS of society to SHARE accountability for preventing excessive life disruption and job loss.  RETAIN offers an opportunity for those professionals to start figuring out how to work like a TEAM with each other – across sector boundaries – and to collaborate in real time, on short notice during a critical time window when it is important that the right things happen promptly.  The idea is to help doctors give better advice and make more appropriate decisions about SAW/RTW, and also to help workers and employers resolve case-specific obstacles to SAW/RTW in a timely fashion.     The state workforce is the jurisdictional SPONSOR of this remarkable effort at changing what happens for the better!  So, its role might be: 

1.   Oversee the entire RETAIN project as the fiscal agent and overall project manager to make sure all parts are working as intended;  Serve as the liaison with ODEP/DOL ETA. 

2.  Set up and meet periodically with advisory boards.   You need to think through whose SUPPORT and COOPERATION you want / need in order for the project to succeed. It seems obvious that there should be a joint labor-management advisory board, because both workers and employers need to view RETAIN as positive.  But should that advisory board be at the sponsoring agency level or at the level of the COHE?  In Washington, there are actually joint L-M boards at BOTH levels, because the COHEs are local.  And there will be additional advisory boards needed.   For example, since the participation of physicians (and the organizations in which they work) is essential, seems like you also want a healthcare advisory board.   And if you have more than one contractor, you may want to have an advisory board comprised of the contractors, so they can give you feedback on how the project is going from their perspective.

3.  Issue an RFP and contract for services by one or more entities in the healthcare sector that will serve as the COHE(s).

4.   Educate employers about the availability of

-- the COHE’s services (to encourage referrals and cooperation) – your role here will be HUGELY important and absolutely CRITICAL to the success of RETAIN.

-- your own agency’s services to help them at the programmatic level:  write SAW/RTW policies, set up temporary task banks, and get more comfortable with the interactive process and making reasonable accommodations under the ADAAA;

-- your own agency’s case-based services to provide expert SAW/RTW problem-solving services in individual workers’ situations which may include workplace mediation/process facilitation as well as technical solutions

-- any incentive programs you are offering, or wage subsidies you are offering during temporary light duty assignments that do not meet productivity requirements.

5.  Ensure that you have sufficient existing staff or have established a contract with qualified field staff with appropriate expertise available to provide specialty SAW/RTW services on request by EITHER COHE staff or employers for assistance:

-- With programmatic issues in the employer’s workplace

-- In individual workers’ cases.

6.  Respond timely to requests for help from COHE staff when they have an individual case with a problem that requires more SAW/RTW expertise than the COHE is set up to provide. These might typically include:

-- Helping find (and fund) technical solutions to enable short term adjustments or long term accommodations – adaptive processes, tools, clothing, equipment,

-- Sending appropriately trained staff to meet face to face with the employer and employee to help the parties agree on the terms of a SAW/RTW plan – general expectations, specific tasks, supervision, duration, weekly schedule, escalation route if there are problems, etc.

-- A SAW/RTW subsidy for the employer.

7. Manage the financial incentive program for employers, which most likely will need to have at least two parts: 

-- subsidy for the cost of stuff or services that must be bought in order to solve a SAW/RTW problem;

-- wage subsidy for workers who are able to do something productive but TEMPORARILY not able to do the essential functions of their usual job or are unable to meet productivity standards, or are working in another capacity.

8.  Arrange for availability of career counseling / vocational rehabilitation services for workers in situations where it is apparent very early on that they will clearly be unable to return to the job of origin

9. [Admittedly cutting edge idea]  Set up a program / mechanism whereby workers who are expected to have long recoveries but whose employers cannot provide appropriate modified duty can get help finding A TEMPORARY JOB placement elsewhere (that is within their work capacity) or get some TRAINING (even a GED if necessary) to upgrade their skills /employability during recovery – to keep them busy and productive and feeling like they are moving forward -- during that long and potentially discouraging recovery.

Can you give me some feedback on whether these suggestions seem realistic so are useful to you?

Jennifer Christian, MD, MPH
President / Chief Medical Officer
Webility Corporation
95 Woodridge Road
Wayland, MA 01778
Office:  508-358-5218 (preferred)
Mobile:  617-803-9835
Email: jennifer.christian@...
Blog: www.jenniferchristian.com
Website:  www.webility.md