BWC’s Medical & Health Symposium starts today

Earn free continuing education  

By Debi Kroninger, Chief of Medical Operations

Our virtual 2021 Ohio Workers’ Compensation Medical & Health Symposium kicks off today!

Join more than 4,000 registrants from around the world for three days of educational sessions designed to inform, inspire, and even entertain health care providers, their staffs, legal professionals, and people in the workers’ compensation industry.

For your review, here’s our symposium brochure and event guide.

It’s not too late to register for the free event, themed, “Comprehensive Care for Injured Workers.” You can register on any day of the symposium, but the sooner you register, the more you will learn about today’s most pressing health and medical issues facing all of us.

Three tracks, three days

I’m confident this symposium will be the best one ever!

It includes 16 sessions led by state and national experts on health and medical topics that affect all of us— at work and at home. It offers continuing-education opportunities with credits for many health care and legal professionals.

Our symposium features a Provider Staff Forum (Thursday morning), a Vocational Rehabilitation Workshop (Thursday afternoon), and a two-day Provider Clinical  Education track (Friday and Saturday). In addition, we can’t wait to connect you with our exhibitors! You may virtually visit our exhibitors during your breaks.

Today’s Provider Staff Forum highlights an overview of basic tools and resources for managing the day-to-day operations of workers’ compensation processes and workflows. This afternoon, our Vocational Rehabilitation Workshop features Linda Hedenblad, MSE, CRC, MINT, speaking on ethical decision making and resilience for anyone interested in these vital topics in today’s world. 

Vision

Our 2021 symposium brings medical and health specialists together with legal professionals to learn how we can better solve far-reaching issues. These include where medical and legal intersect, substance abuse disorder, COVID-19 clinical insights, violence in the workplace, delayed recovery, return to work, and multi-disciplinary treatment programs. 

Friday and Saturday’s Provider Clinical Education sessions cover the latest topics impacting patient care and providers.

Triumph, recovery, and human connection 

In addition, you don’t want to miss our inspiring stories of triumph and recovery. On Friday morning, burn survivor SSG (Ret) Shilo Harris and his wife/caregiver Jamie PK will share their story of resilience and success following serious combat injuries.

Saturday morning, Tim Ryan, founder of A Man in Recovery Foundation, and his wife, actress Jennifer Gimenez-Ryan, are sharing their personal and professional life stories of addiction and recovery. Later that day, two physician brothers, Joseph Choo, M.D., and Michael Choo, M.D., will review COVID-19 insights from their clinical perspectives.

Closing out the symposium is bestselling author Jon Petz, CSP, discussing the power of human connection with your patients. If you have questions, email medsymposium@bwc.state.oh.us.

Together, join us in our journey of providing innovative and quality health care focused on Ohio’s injured workers, their families, and communities. We look forward to seeing you virtually today through Saturday at our 2021 Medical & Health Symposium!

New facilities eligible for indoor air quality funding

Over the past year, we’ve learned a lot about COVID-19, including the impact indoor air quality (IAQ) has on the spread of COVID-19. That’s why we’re so proud to offer the COVID-19 Indoor Air Quality Assistance Program. The program started in December 2020 and has received over 700 applications so far.

Because of the success of the program and the positive feedback we’ve received, we’ve decided to expand the number of eligible facilities. Previously, the program was limited to nursing homes, assisted living centers, and adult day centers. We’ll now include:

  • Intermediate care facilities.
  • Hospices.
  • Senior centers.
  • Adult care facilities.
  • Waiver settings (group homes).
  • Substance use treatment centers.

With the inclusion of these new facilities, we’ll be able to protect additional vulnerable Ohioans. If your facility falls under one of these categories, we encourage you to apply today. The program offers up to $15,000 in reimbursement to inspect heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, assess air quality needs, and make improvements through maintenance, increased filtration, portable air cleaners, and other interventions.

If you’ve made any improvements to your HVAC systems throughout the pandemic, we encourage you to apply. The program will reimburse costs incurred from March 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021. Applications are open until June 30, 2021.

Not an eligible facility?

If your facility doesn’t fall under one of these categories to qualify for funding, don’t worry, we have resources for you too. We know that maintaining safe and heathy IAQ is imperative to prevent the spread of COVID-19, so we’ve put together some resources your facility can use to learn more.

You can watch a recording of one of our IAQ webinars here:

For more on IAQ, we encourage you to check out these resources:

Visit our website to apply now. You can also contact BWC’s Division of Safety & Hygiene or call 1-800-644-6292 with questions.

2021 Medical & Health Symposium – Get informed and inspired!

Register now for our virtual event April 8-10

By Debi Kroninger, Chief of Medical Operations

Each year at the conclusion of our annual Ohio Workers’ Compensation Medical & Health Symposium, I ask myself this question: How are we going to top this next year?

Without fail, I am floored every year by the impressive lineup of speakers who educate, inspire, and uplift our conference attendees and each other, including health care providers, attorneys, workers comp experts, and anyone else dedicated to improving the lives of injured workers.

I’m sure I’ll have that question again this year following our first-ever virtual Medical & Health Symposium April 8-10. COVID-19 precludes an in-person event this year, but my team worked hard to create a symposium that will be no less engaging or enlightening. Consider just a few of our topics and speakers:

  • The Neurobiology of Substance Use Disorder – Listen to Dr. Jon E. Sprague, the director of science and research for the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation. An Eminent Scholar at Bowling Green State University, Dr. Sprague will take a deep dive on drugs associated with substance use disorder.
  • When Life Blows Up: From Tragedy to Triumph – Overcoming tragedy and living a successful life after combat, burn survivor SSG (Ret) Shilo Harris and his wife/caregiver Jamie PK share their story of resilience and success after tragedy. They will share their story of successes and the many tools used to overcome extreme odds. Their goal is to share their outline of success for you to share with others and hopefully help them get back to living their lives.
  • From Dope to Hope: A Man in Recovery –This spellbinding presentation chronicles Tim Ryan’s journey through addiction and offers practical tools for prevention and recovery. Ryan will offer solutions that are non-opiate based for people struggling with substance use disorder and provide other methods and resources to get people on the road to recovery. He’ll be joined by his wife, actress Jennifer Gimenez-Ryan, who will share her personal and professional life story of addiction and recovery.

And more. Lots more, including clinical insights into COVID-19, preventing delayed recovery, violence in the workplace, and the power of human connection with bestselling author Jon Petz. After listening to Jon, you’ll appreciate the little moments that connect you with patients. You’ll leave with a different perspective on rendering care to injured workers.

In addition, we’re seeking continuing education for physicians, attorneys, psychologists, and many others.

All of this for the low, low price of FREE. Plus, you can enjoy it from the comfort and safety of your home or office.

In the end, you may not have the question that challenges me each year, but I’m confident you’ll feel uplifted and energized, leaving with this thought: This is why I do what I do.

For more information, including a full list of speakers, session topics, and registration information, be sure to check out the symposium’s website. You may also call our provider contact center at 1-800-644-6292, options 0-3-0, or email medsymposium@bwc.state.oh.us.

My role at BWC has changed during the pandemic — and I couldn’t be prouder

By Vern Davenport, Security Manager, Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation

I am not a doctor, a nurse, or health care provider of any kind, but I am saving lives and protecting the health of my fellow Ohioans.

I am but one player in our state’s continued battle to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic, but I’m a critical player – I drive a truck. I work with my colleagues in BWC’s Special Investigations Department (SID) and with the state’s Emergency Operations Center to deliver ventilators, test kits, and personal protective equipment (PPE) to health care settings, hospitals, and front-line workers across our state.

Vern loads a pallet of air filters onto the BWC box truck. His pickups and destinations have been all over Ohio, including down Amish country gravel roads. “I kept an eye out for a horse and buggy to help get me out in case I went off the road,” Vern said with a laugh.

That’s not what I signed up for at BWC – as security manager, my role is the safety and security of all BWC buildings – but I couldn’t be prouder to serve in this role today. I’m even more proud to report this milestone: My SID colleagues and I just passed a huge milestone – delivering more than 3.5 million pieces of PPE and other essential equipment as we hit the one-year mark of COVID-19 in our lives. This includes face masks, protective gowns, face shields, sanitizer, pop-up testing equipment, and more.

I’m like many in our agency who pivoted in March 2020 to help our state defeat COVID-19 in any way we could. We’ve sent millions of masks to Ohio businesses, returned $8 billion in dividends to those same businesses, and lent our customer service specialists to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services when unemployment claims soared.

When the pandemic sent most of us home to telework, it freed me and others in SID to contribute in other ways.

Every state agency has representatives in Ohio’s Emergency Operations Center, which coordinates the COVID-19 response. BWC has been asked consistently to fill in the delivery gaps, so I’ve taken pallets of PPE and other supplies to every corner of the state, including viral test kits to Cleveland and equipment to build pop-up test sites in Cincinnati. On a run in late February, I dropped off 259,000 face masks in Cleveland on behalf of the Department of Aging.

For me, each delivery is a source of pride because I know how critical these items are to the health and safety of every Ohioan.

It’s not just the state agencies pulling together, though. Individuals and businesses throughout Ohio have stepped up. I’ve picked up gallons of hand sanitizer made at a Cleveland microbrewery and delivered it to a National Guard distribution center in Columbus. Another mission took me to a Columbus paper plant, which had shifted its production to making masks and donated them to the state. We truly are #InThisTogether.

I drove a box truck for a food distributor for 14 years, so this “new” role isn’t so new to me. The only difference now is I wear a tie every day, as I’ve always done since joining BWC in 1994. I like wearing it and the professionalism it brings. The folks at the warehouses I frequent shout, “Hey, it’s The Tie Guy!”

Whenever Vern Davenport makes regular warehouse pickups in the box truck, the folks always shout, “Hey, it’s The Tie Guy!” Vern hasn’t stopped wearing a tie since his first day on the job at BWC in 1994, and he’s definitely the most well-dressed delivery guy in the Emergency Operations Center.

That kind of lighthearted banter is what we all need. The pandemic’s emotional toll is every bit as concerning as the physical, and it’s important we lift each other up. So no matter where I go, I smile. I ask how people are and thank them for the job they’re doing.

For many of us in state government, the pandemic has redefined what we do and how we do it. I could not be prouder to get behind the wheel and represent BWC in this noble work.

Vern Davenport is the security manager for the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, overseeing the safety and security of all BWC buildings statewide. He first joined the agency as a security contractor in 1994 and was hired as an employee in 2004.

Prevent COVID-19 spread through HVAC improvements

Indoor Air Quality focus of March 3 webinar

By Jeff Hutchins, MS, CIH, Regional Loss Prevention Manager

We all know a mask, social distancing, frequent handwashing, and cleaning can weaken the spread of COVID-19. So can improvements to your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems.

How to do that in a smart, step-wise fashion will be the subject of a free webinar we’re hosting from 2-3:15 p.m. Wednesday, March 3, in partnership with the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission. Employers and building owners wanting to improve their indoor air quality will benefit from this webinar.

In the age of COVID-19, indoor air quality, or IAQ, has taken on a whole new dimension. Since the virus that causes COVID-19 can be transmitted through the air, maintaining safe and healthy IAQ becomes a vital link in preventing the disease. It also reduces the risk of other indoor health concerns. (IAQ, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, refers to the air quality within and around buildings and structures, especially as it relates to the health and comfort of building occupants.)

Register for the webinar here.  (We will also offer the webinar during our Ohio Safety Congress & Expo  March 10-11.)

Topics covered include:

  • Increasing outside air and room (or building) air exchanges.
  • Improving central HVAC filtration.
  • Using high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtration to enhance central HVAC system air cleaning, particularly in high risk areas.
  • Deploying ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) as a supplement where increased ventilation and/or filtration options are limited.

The webinar also details BWC’s COVID-19 Indoor Air Quality Assistance Program. This federally funded program originally targeted nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and adult day centers, but we are expanding the program to include the following:

  • Intermediate care facilities.
  • Hospices.
  • Senior centers.
  • Adult care facilities.
  • Waiver settings (group homes).
  • Substance use treatment centers.

For more on IAQ, I encourage you to check out these resources:

A look back at our most-popular posts of 2020

By Danielle Alley, Social Media Coordinator

While we all might be ready to close the book on 2020, we think some pages are worth reading again, or perhaps for the first time if you missed them earlier.

Our most popular blog posts from the past 12 months focused primarily on the COVID-19 pandemic and how it upended our lives and routines, personally and professionally. We heard from a BWC nurse fighting COVID-19 on the front lines in her weekend hospital job. We heard from employers praising our efforts to mitigate the pandemic’s impact on their employees and bottom line. We heard from others sharing deeply personal stories about tragedy and triumph in their lives.

In short, these stories are about people. That’s what BWC is about, too. Thank you for following us in this space.

  1. Amy Phillips’ family tragedy saved many lives.
  2. Customers show us the love during COVID-19.
  3. My family’s trauma changed my world.
  4. BWC nurse battles COVID-19 on front lines.
  5. In challenging times, BWC delivers.

As always, if you have ideas for blog topics, please let us know. Leave a comment or connect with us on social media and we’ll do our best to make it happen.

Have a happy and SAFE new year!

 

My experience in BWC’s Safety Leaders Fellowship Program

By Meleesha Hodge, BWC Occupational Safety & Hygiene Fellow

After graduating from the University of Cincinnati in 2018, I struggled to figure out what career path was right for me. I had obtained my Bachelor of Science degree in biological sciences but did not have much experience in that field. I knew to thrive in the job market I would need to develop skills and gain experience.

I was grateful to have the opportunity to work for BWC’s Division of Safety & Hygiene (DSH) as part of the Safety Leaders Fellowship Program*. During my time as an Occupational Safety & Hygiene Fellow, I’ve had the pleasure of shadowing and learning from BWC safety consultants, ergonomists, and industrial hygienists on about 85 consultative safety visits.

Some visits were on-site at Ohio employers, and since March 2020, I have assisted with virtual consultations. During these visits I actively participated in the delivery of DSH programs, products, and services to employers. I progressed from helping with pre-visit planning and employer research to making field observations, answering employer questions, making recommendations, and writing post-visit reports and correspondence. Each consultant I shadowed had their own unique way of how they did their jobs and shared their expertise with me whenever they had the chance.

Training and education are important aspects of this program. I completed more than 23 educational readings, more than 15 in-class trainings, and about 18 online courses within the first year, all centered around safety and health topics. After learning more about safety topics, I worked with BWC’s Education and Training Services staff members to create and revamp online training courses. One course I was particularly involved with revising focuses on preventing cuts and lacerations. This course educates employers on this topic and ultimately can reduce the number of claims from these types of injuries.

Meleesha Hodge performs a slip meter test that measures the coefficient of friction to determine if a floor or walkway is safe for use.

DSH managers assigned different projects to me that pertained to fulfilling DSH’s aim of making Ohio workplaces safer and healthier for the employer and their employees. For example, for the 2020 Safety Innovation Awards, I served as a project lead and coordinated meetings, took meeting minutes, and participated in semifinalist site visits and scoring of the innovations. For another project to promote health awareness, I had the opportunity to create the Wellness Wednesday Tips featured on BWC’s social media pages that highlight current health issues in the U.S. A few of the topics I prepared tips for were childhood obesity, fall prevention, and breast cancer awareness.

In my second year, I expressed interest in helping with BWC’s health and wellness initiatives and my supervisor created a great development plan to get me more involved in that specific area. That evolved into me joining our department’s internal wellness team, where I assisted by creating health bulletins and developing health activities for our staff members. In addition, I worked on projects for BWC’s Better You, Better Ohio!® health and wellness program. I realized my passion for health and wellness and am now pursuing my master’s degree in public health with a concentration in social and behavioral sciences online through the University of Florida.

Working for BWC has helped me find my passion and gave me the necessary knowledge and skills to move forward in this ever-changing workforce. I will be forever grateful for this opportunity to not only help save the lives of Ohio workers but to also discover a career path that would truly bring me joy!

*The Safety Leaders Fellowship Program provides recent college graduates in the fields of occupational safety and health, engineering, industrial hygiene, and/or physical/ natural sciences an opportunity to receive on-the-job training to build a professional career in the fields of occupational safety and health, ergonomics, industrial hygiene and risk management. Selected candidates are offered a two-year project/contractual position where they receive hands-on and classroom training along with mentoring and coaching by highly experienced professionals in all areas of occupational safety and health.

 

Former police officer convicted for workers’ comp fraud

North Canton man owes BWC $89,000

A retired police officer for the city of Canton pleaded guilty to workers’ compensation fraud Thursday after the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) discovered him working two jobs while claiming to be permanently disabled.

James H. Blaine of North Canton must pay BWC $66,481 in restitution and $23,000 in investigative costs after pleading guilty to the fourth-degree felony charge through a bill of information hearing in the Stark County Court of Common Pleas. A judge also ordered Blaine to serve three years of probation, obtain a full-time job, and provide 100 hours of community service.

“If you’re working two jobs, you’re clearly not permanently disabled,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Stephanie McCloud. “Kudos to our investigators for detecting this fraud and putting a stop to it.”

BWC’s Special Investigations Department discovered Blaine working as a security guard for a private company in late 2017 and operating his own landscaping business while collecting permanent total disability benefits for an injury he suffered while working for a salt company. His fraudulent activity is unrelated to his former job as a police officer in Canton, where he retired in 1997, according to city records.

To report suspected workers’ compensation fraud, call 1-800-644-6292 or visit bwc.ohio.gov.

Amy Phillips’ family tragedy saved many lives

Lifeline of Ohio’s registration drive kicked off Oct. 8

By Adam King, Public Information Officer

Injury Management Supervisor Amy Phillips’ brother-in-law, Tim Rolph, was the kind of soul you never forget. At unexpected moments, Amy remembers his distinct laugh and how he was a cherished addition to the family.

The waves of grief are still there, even six years after he died falling from a ladder during a handyman job. But what comforts her without fail is how his sacrifice – and his decision to be an organ donor long before his death – saved and improved so many lives.

“It was what Tim and my sister wanted, to help someone else,” Amy said. “We didn’t have any idea how many people it would help until after.”

Lifeline of Ohio wants to make more people aware of their life-saving potential. The organization kicked off its online donor registration drive, “Don’t’ Wait, Save 8” on Oct. 8. Lifeline of Ohio chose 10/8/20 because every 10 minutes someone is added to the national donor registry, and every donor has the potential to save up to eight lives (and heal 75 more). In Ohio, about 3,000 people are awaiting an organ or tissue donation.

Amy said Tim was the perfect donor. His head trauma left all the organs in his body intact.

Lifeline brought care packages to the hospital and volunteers made blankets for his three sons, all now grown and in their 20s. Every step of the process felt like making decisions with lifelong friends, Amy said, and she’s still astounded at the number of people Tim helped.

A 65-year-old Ohio man with five children and nine grandchildren received Tim’s heart. He had been on the transplant list for a year, and now he’s back to golfing and spending time with his family. Every year he sends emails to Amy’s sister Lori to let her know how he’s doing.

Lori never met any of the recipients, but she wrote each of them before their transplants to tell them about Tim and the man he was.

  • Tim’s liver went to a 58-year-old Midwestern man.
  • His left kidney went to a 70-year-old New England woman.
  • A 43-year-old woman received Tim’s right kidney and pancreas.
  • Tim’s eyes, corneas and skin tissue were used among multiple recipients.

Amy and Tim both grew up in Erie, Pennsylvania, and she knew him since the fifth grade. Lori didn’t meet Tim until she took a college visit to Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where he was a freshman.

“It was a tragic accident, but it wasn’t a big decision to do this for our family. All of us were registered donors before this happened,” said Amy, adding Tim’s sons registered once they were old enough.

She said people often have misconceptions about eligibility, and she suggests visiting Lifeline of Ohio’s website to clear any confusion.

“I’ve heard a lot of people who said they’ve had cancer or they’re not sure if they would be a good candidate because of the meds they’re taking,” Amy said. “But there is so much they’re able to use. Definitely do your research before you make a decision.”

According to Lifeline of Ohio, there are nearly 7 million Ohioans who are not registered. Here are some quick ways to do it:

  • Register online with the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles.
  • Complete a form and mail it in to the BMV.
  • Just say yes when you renew or receive your driver’s license or state ID card.

Fayette County man owes $141,000 after second fraud conviction

Ohio BWC releases latest fraud convictions

A Washington Courthouse man pleaded guilty to felony workers’ compensation fraud Oct. 5 for working while receiving more than $141,500 in benefits from the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC).

Jeffrey Janson, 70, pleaded guilty to the fourth-degree felony in Franklin County Common Pleas Court. A judge sentenced him to six months in jail, suspended for three years of probation, and ordered Janson to pay restitution of $141,578 to BWC. Janson was previously convicted of felony workers’ compensation fraud in July 2010.

“Most people learn a lesson after a conviction for workers’ compensation fraud,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Stephanie McCloud. “Obviously that’s not the case with Mr. Janson, who tempted fate again and was caught a second time by our investigators.”

BWC’s Special Investigations Department discovered Janson working as a semi-truck driver while receiving benefits for a workplace injury. Further review of his bank records proved he was, in fact, working for four additional employers during the same time period.

In other news, BWC secured five fraud-related convictions in September, bringing its 2020 calendar year total to 57. They include a case involving a Logan County man receiving benefits while coaching high school sports teams.

BWC investigators found Dennis Martin, of Bellefontaine, working as varsity baseball coach and as an assistant coach for girls varsity basketball at Botkins High School from Oct. 27, 2017 to May 7, 2018. During this same time, Martin was collecting disability benefits from BWC. A judge credited Martin for time served and terminated the case. Martin has paid restitution of $7,082 to BWC.

On Sept. 23, Jessica Holston, of Dayton, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor theft in Franklin County Common Pleas Court for collecting more than $3,200 in disability benefits from BWC while working as a home health aide for Wellcare Home Health from March 13, 2017 to May 30, 2017. A judge sentenced Holston to 180 days in jail, suspended for three years of probation, and ordered her to pay $3,242 in restitution to BWC.

To report suspected workers’ compensation fraud, call 1-800-644-6292 or visit bwc.ohio.gov.