5 convicted on work comp fraud charges in February

Convictions result of BWC investigations

The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation secured five convictions in February of Ohioans who cheated the agency out of tens of thousands of dollars.

Those convicted include a Cleveland chiropractor who billed for services he didn’t provide, a longtime injured worker who ran a lawn care business and an injured school bus driver who worked for a limousine service without telling BWC he was working again.

“We’re in the business of taking care of people who are legitimately injured, not subsidizing cheats trying to make an easy buck,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Sarah Morrison. “Any money we recover from these cases will go back to the State Insurance Fund for injured workers and workplace safety initiatives.”

Including February’s total, BWC’s Special Investigations Department has secured 24 convictions so far this calendar year. February’s convictions include:

Michael C. Wilson of Cleveland, Services Not Rendered
Wilson, a chiropractor, refunded BWC more than $57,000 on Feb. 15 and agreed to stop treating injured workers in the BWC system after pleading guilty to workers’ compensation fraud in a Franklin County courtroom. Investigators found Wilson falsified treatment notes and billed for services he didn’t provide. He pleaded guilty to a minor misdemeanor charge of workers’ compensation fraud rather than go to trial.

Jason Neagles of Marion, Working and Receiving
Neagles pleaded guilty to a first-degree misdemeanor charge of workers’ compensation fraud Feb. 21 after investigators discovered him working as a high school bowling coach while collecting BWC benefits. A Franklin County judge ordered him to pay BWC $1,587 for the cost of the agency’s investigation. He also warned Neagles to pay BWC within 90 days or face 90 days in jail.

Robert Campbell of Pickerington, Working and Receiving
Investigators found Campbell, who was injured on the job in 1984, owned and worked a lawn care business while collecting permanent total disability benefits from BWC. He pleaded guilty Feb. 13 to one count of workers compensation fraud, a fifth degree felony, and was ordered to pay $93,457 in restitution to BWC. A Franklin County judge also sentenced him to two years community control.

Robert Willie Jr. of Columbus, Working and Receiving
Investigators found Willie, a school bus driver when he was injured on the job in 2010, working as a limousine driver and office clerk while receiving injured workers’ benefits. He pleaded guilty Feb. 7 to a fifth-degree charge of workers’ compensation fraud. A Franklin County judge ordered him to reimburse BWC $80,000 and serve five years probation.

Beverly Ritchie of Tiffin, Working and Receiving
Ritchie pleaded guilty Feb. 28 to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor, after investigators found her working for a doctor’s office while receiving temporary disability benefits. The judge ordered her to pay BWC $5,340 in restitution, which she paid immediately.

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

Comprehensive Care of an Injured Worker

By Stephen T. Woods, M.D., BWC Chief Medical Officer

When any group of individuals comes together with one common purpose, they can achieve what others believe is not possible. I got to see such a group at our recent Medical & Health Symposium, held in conjunction with BWC’s annual Safety Congress and Expo. In this case it was hundreds of providers with a shared passion for taking care of Ohio’s injured workers. Those of us at BWC share that passion and are dedicated to providing world-class care and coverage from Portsmouth to Ashtabula.

The Medical & Health Symposium was an excellent opportunity for providers to learn the latest best practices for the comprehensive care of an injured worker.

I was pleased that more than 400 providers attended. Our system often deals with people who are in their most vulnerable state – emotionally, medically and financially – after work-related injuries. The providers in attendance represented a broad range of disciplines, but all had the unique skills and the passion to pursue a virtuous cycle of continued improvement on behalf of their patients.

Those of us who serve injured workers do so knowing that we are choosing to be their advocates and understanding the complexities of their conditions and of our system.

That commitment is something we’re really focusing on at BWC. That includes being committed to holistic, comprehensive care that is patient-centered, minimizes the burden of injuries and avoids preventable disabilities. That focus on the customer also means that we have to understand the diverse needs of our customers and operate in a way that lets us quickly adapt to both their unique needs and the rapidly changing world around us.

Specifically, in BWC’s Medical & Health Division, we are continuing to push efforts to reduce the amount of bureaucracy our providers endure so they can spend more time managing the overall needs of the injured worker. Pharmacy management, better-designed fee schedules and treatment guidelines, access to non-medication options, and health behavior assessments are all areas we are exploring to make sure injured workers are better able to return to work and return to life.

Of course, no amount of effort on our part will make a difference without the partnership of our providers and other stakeholders. So, thanks to all of you for your commitment in providing comprehensive care for Ohio’s injured workers. You are all part of our world-class team.

OSC17 – A look back in photos

Last week’s Ohio Safety Congress & Expo (OSC17) gave us the opportunity to meet face-to-face with our customers and find out what drives them to make their workplaces safer and healthier. In short, what is their safety motto?

This week, our message to all who attended is simple: Thank you, thank you, thank you! We are so grateful you were part of our record-setting crowd of more than 7,500 attendees. From educational sessions and a busy Expo Marketplace to inspiring general session speakers and live demonstrations, we hope you enjoyed your time at OSC17.

For a look back at last week’s events, check out our storified tweets and scroll through the photos below. We can’t wait to see you again next year!

Expo Marketplace – “before”




Expo Marketplace – “after”

Expo pics from the mobile app – thanks to all who uploaded them.

Huge turnout for the General Session in the Battelle Grand Ballroom!

OSC17 attendees voting for Safety Innovations People’s Choice award. 

Safety Innovations Awards – 1st place ($6,000 award): ICP Adhesives and Sealants.

Safety Innovations Awards – People’s Choice ($1,000 award):  Holloway, Henderson and Martin LLC.

Awesome safety selfies in the BWC booth.

Passport to Safety prizes – Thanks to our generous exhibitors!

Be safe up there: March is Ladder Safety Month

By Gregory Williams, BWC Occupational Safety & Hygiene Fellow

A lot happens in March – the luck of the Irish, NCAA championship basketball, the first day of spring and Ladder Safety Month. OK, maybe that last one isn’t as well known, but it’s important.

Whether on the job or at home, many of us come across ladders. We use them to hang up and take down Christmas lights, clean out gutters, change light bulbs and fix things at work and at home. Well, we should be using ladders for these activities. I said should because so many people are tempted to grab the nearest chair, stool or box to get that extra boost when trying to reach something.

We’ve all seen viral “fail” videos of chairs slipping out from underneath someone. Many are able to dust themselves off and get back to work, but what about those who fall and don’t get up? What about those who break an arm, suffer concussions, or even worse, are killed because of a fall that seems so insignificant? This is why ladder safety is so important.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), 43 percent of fatal falls involve a ladder and 28 percent of fatal falls involving a ladder happened at heights of 6 to 10 feet. We often think it will take a far greater fall to be a fatality, but this just isn’t true. There is no safe fall.

So how do you keep yourself and those around you safe when using ladders this year? First, use a ladder to reach things instead of a chair, table or box. Always be sure to use the right ladder for the situation. Do not use a step ladder when it’s leaned up against a house; this is a job for extension ladders. Use a ladder that has the proper height. If you’re standing on the top rung, the ladder is too short, and it’s time to go get a taller one. And always make sure you use a ladder that is able to support the weight you will put on it.

Second, it’s important to set up the ladder properly. For extension ladders, ensure the base is on stable, level ground and have someone hold the base while you ascend. Follow the 4-1 ratio. This means for every 4 feet of ladder length you need to place the ladder a foot away from the surface it’s leaning against. Make sure to properly lock step ladders in place before ascending.

Third and finally, make sure you keep yourself between the sides of the ladder at all times. Never overreach when using a ladder. It may take you more time to climb down and move the ladder, but it will be worth it.

Don’t leave ladder safety up to luck. Whether working at 2 feet or 20 feet, always remember the rules while working on ladders. Only use them in the proper conditions, using the right ladder for the job, and stay as close to the ladder as possible while you work. It could be the difference between life and death.

See additional resources:

Coping with pain

‘Visualize your way out of it,’ psychologist tells work comp audience

By Tony Gottschlich, BWC Public Information Officer

There’s another way to deal with chronic pain that doesn’t involve medications or surgery, a psychologist told an audience Friday at the 2017 Ohio Workers’ Compensation Medical & Health Symposium.

It’s called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and it’s not as complicated as it sounds. In fact, the techniques are rather simple, said Michael Coupland, medical director for Integrated Medical Case Solutions in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a widely accepted form of psychotherapy that is based on the cognitive model: the way that individuals perceive a situation is more closely connected to their reaction than the situation itself.

Coupland explained that we can condition our brains to control pain or banish it from our consciousness. But it takes practice, a daily repetition of mantras, deep breathing techniques, meditation and other mindfulness methods for it to take root and stick.

Thanks to neuroplasticity, the brain can reorganize or rewire itself, both physically and functionally, throughout your life in response to your environment, behavior, thinking and emotions.

“Exercise your neurons, visualize your way out of this,” he said. “I tell my patients, ‘Whether you believe in this or not, just humor me and do this every day for eight weeks.’ These techniques help stand down the body’s stress-arousal system.”

Coupland admitted it’s tough for most patients to accept this approach. Mindfulness, a state of active, open awareness of the present moment, and meditation are about “letting go,” but the American educational system teaches us to “hold on” to everything we learn.

Coupland shared with the audience a book he authored in the style of Dr. Seuss that illustrates the simplicity and effectiveness of CBT. It’s titled, “Up Pain, Down Pain, Good Brain, Bad Brain,” and can be found for free here.

For more on Coupland and his work, visit www.icms.us or www.cope-with-pain.com.

‘Wired for addiction’

Addiction specialist addresses work comp health symposium

By Tony Gottschlich, BWC Public Information Officer

Many believe drug addicts are weak-willed people of diminished moral character who choose drugs, getting high and even criminal behavior over a proper, law-abiding life.

And they would be wrong, a longtime psychiatrist and addiction specialist said Friday morning at the 2017 Ohio Workers’ Compensation Medical & Health Symposium.

“Addiction is not about the drugs or the behavior, it’s all about the brain,” said Dr. Susan K. Blank, co-founder and chief medical officer for The Atlanta Healing Center, an outpatient treatment recovery program. “This is a genetically inherited brain disease.”

Blank, speaking to a capacity audience at the Greater Columbus Convention Center, spoke for an hour on the topic, “The Perfect Storm: Pathophysiology of Controlled Substance Misuse and Addiction.” Her presentation was the first continuing education session on the final day of the two-day symposium for health care professionals.

Blank explained there are three key forces behind addiction, and choice has little, if anything, to do with it. They include:

  • Genetics. Our brains are hardwired for addiction because of our genes. Some of us inherit malfunctioning “dopamine feedback loops.” When we experience pleasure, whether from food, drugs or sex, it’s because our brains are releasing the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine. In addicts, that feedback mechanism doesn’t shut down and they just want more and more, regardless of the consequences. “It’s never enough,” Blank said. This is particularly hard to overcome if the addiction started in one’s youth. That’s because drug and alcohol abuse can damage the prefrontal cortex, our brain’s impulse-control center, which is still developing into our mid 20s.

Worried your children might be future addicts? Look for the thrill-seeking child who thrives on adrenaline, the child who’s the first to take a dare. These are behaviors that demonstrate he or she is seeking a dopamine release, Blank said.

  • Exposure. Growing up around addicts increases the likelihood of addiction.
  • Environment. There must be an environmental trigger or stressor – loss of a job or loved one, for instance – that keeps the addiction cycle going.

“You have to have all three legs of that stool for addiction to manifest itself in your life,” said Blank, who is also president of the Georgia Society of Addiction Medicine. Genes alone won’t doom you.

Addictions often start through prescription drugs, she said, and can’t stop without outside help. They lead to brain changes that can’t be undone. “Our rational brain is gone.”

Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the United States in recent years, fueled by powerful opioids, heroin especially. Ohio is the nation’s overdose death capital, with 3,050 OD deaths in 2015, or more than eight per day, according to state-by-state statistics compiled by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

Blank noted that addictions aren’t limited to painkillers and street drugs, of course. People can be addicted to sugar, sex, tobacco and other dopamine triggers, too. It’s all about the dopamine. (Surprising fact to nonsmokers: “Nicotine is better than food, sex and morphine,” Blank said.)

Blank provided a number of sobering facts and statistics, including this one: “This is a chronic disease and there is no cure.”

But there is hope, she said. Addictions can be managed, and many addicts go on to live long, productive and healthy lives. Nationwide, opioid prescriptions are falling and there’s a growing awareness and understanding that addiction is a disease.

She concluded her remarks with a warning: “If you can’t escape addiction, choose yours carefully.”

The health symposium concluded Friday. It was held in conjunction with the 2017 Ohio Safety Congress & Expo, the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation’s annual safety, health and workers’ compensation conference.

Comprehensive care for injured workers, innovative employers highlight busy day 2 at #OSC17 and #BWCmhs, much more to come

Welcome back to the Columbus Convention Center, home of the Ohio Safety Congress & Expo and the Ohio Workers’ Compensation Medical & Health Symposium!

We have a lot in store before we bid farewell this afternoon but first, here’s a rundown of yesterday’s activities.

The second day of OSC17 was the first day of the Medical & Health Symposium. This is the second year of the symposium, which filled to capacity weeks ago. BWC sponsors this conference for health-care professionals who treat Ohio injured workers to hear from leading national and state experts. This year, our theme is “Comprehensive care for the injured worker.”

BWC Medical Director Dr. Stephen Woods welcomed participants and kicked off the event. The day featured several intriguing sessions on various topics related to the care of injured workers. One session covered how the aging workforce challenges the workers’ comp industry. Read a detailed blog on that topic here.

Over at OSC17, we got the day started with the Safety Innovation Awards. ICP Adhesives from the Akron area took first place, and Holloway, Henderson & Martin LLC of Pickerington snagged the People’s Choice Award.

All of the finalists were impressive!  Here’s the final list of award winners along with links to videos highlighting their innovations:

  • 1st place ($6,000 award): ICP Adhesives and Sealants, Norton (Video )
  • 2nd place ($4,000 award): C&K Industrial Services Inc., Cleveland (Video)
  • 3rd place ($3,000 award): Holloway, Henderson & Martin LLC, Pickerington (Video)
  • Honorable Mention ($1,500 award): Suburban Steel Supply Company, Gahanna (Video)
  • Honorable Mention ($1,500 award): Ames Arboreal Group, Columbus (Video)

And our very own Dr. Abe Tarawneh, superintendent of the BWC Division of Safety and Hygiene delivered a presentation on the role of safety leaders in building and executing strategic direction for occupational safety and health programs. Abe advised attendees that the mission of a safety leader is simple: elevate safety as a core value for the organization. If it is not a core value, make it one.

We’re not done yet! Our final day will feature more informative sessions at OSC and the symposium.

See OSC17 and symposium schedules here, in the event guide or on the mobile app. Follow @OhioBWC on Twitter and keep an eye on hashtags #OSC17 and
#BWCmhs for coverage.

Stay tuned for a wrap of the day as we bring the curtain down on another successful OSC17 and M&HS.