BWC adds three counties to worker recovery program

By Widlynn Milor, BWC Communications Department Intern

BWC Administrator/CEO Stephanie McCloud visited London, Ohio, on Tuesday, Feb. 4 to announce Clark, Greene, and Madison counties have joined a BWC program that encourages employers to hire workers in recovery from substance use disorder.

Under BWC’s Substance Use Recovery and Workplace Safety Program (SUR-WSP), BWC will pay for drug screenings and special training for managers to help local employers hire, better manage, and retain workers recovering from addiction to opioids and other dangerous substances.

“This is about workplace safety and meeting the challenges Governor DeWine outlined in his RecoveryOhio initiative,” Administrator McCloud told an audience of public leaders and recovery experts gathered at the Madison County Municipal Courthouse. “We know when workers in recovery get a job, they are more likely to stay on a successful path. In addition, the special training managers receive emphasizes safety and appropriate strategies that benefit the worker and employer both.”

SUR-WSP launched in October 2018 in three counties: Montgomery, Ross and Scioto. Governor DeWine expanded the program in BWC’s latest budget, pledging up to $15 million over 2020 and 2021 to include nine more counties.

The program is funded by BWC but is administered by local Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health (ADAMH) boards or similar boards. Mental Health & Recovery Board of Clark, Greene & Madison Counties (MHRB) will be leading efforts in its jurisdiction.

“The Mental Health & Recovery Board of Clark, Greene & Madison Counties is thrilled to join this effort,” said Greta Mayer, chief executive officer at MHRB. “Our board is investing heavily in workplace and workforce efforts, because we know that it is beneficial for both employers and people in recovery.”

MHRB will identify eligible employers and employees, disperse funding, and measure results. BWC funds cover the following:

  • Reimbursement for pre-employment, random and reasonable suspicion drug testing.
  • Training for managers/supervisors to help them better manage a workforce that includes individuals in recovery.

More information can be found on our website.

BWC reports 4 fraud-related convictions in June

Four Ohioans were convicted for workers’ compensation fraud or related charges in June, including a Springfield man who must reimburse the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) more than $13,000 after investigators found him working two jobs while collecting disability benefits.

Clark A. Howard pleaded guilty June 18 to a fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud after BWC investigators discovered him working for a pizza shop in London, Ohio, and as a machine press operator for another business. A Franklin County judge ordered Howard to pay BWC $13,518 in restitution.

“We’re here to support injured workers as they try to get back to work and back to life, not supplement the income of able-bodied people cheating our system,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Stephanie McCloud.

The judge also sentenced Howard to 30 months of community control (probation) in lieu of a year in jail.

Other June convictions include:

Ben Patterson of Xenia, Ohio, dba C&B Landscaping
Patterson pleaded guilty June 25 to one count of failure to comply, a second-degree misdemeanor, for operating his landscaping company without BWC coverage since 2009. Investigators worked with Patterson to reinstate coverage, but Patterson failed to establish a payment plan.

Patterson paid all outstanding BWC premiums, related fees and interest on June 24, the day before his court hearing. A Xenia Municipal Court judge fined him $150 and court costs and sentenced him to 90 days in jail, suspended upon the condition he not have a similar offense for five years.

Patricia Simon of Columbus, Ohio
Simon pleaded guilty June 18 to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor, after BWC determined she intentionally submitted a false statement to support her claim for workers’ compensation benefits. A Franklin County judge ordered her to pay a $250 fine and $128 to BWC for investigative costs.

Lori Hines of Waynesfield, Ohio, dba Marshall’s Hydraulic Services
Hines pleaded guilty June 7 to one count of failure to comply, a second-degree misdemeanor, after BWC found Marshall’s Hydraulic Services operating without BWC coverage since January 2017.

An Auglaize County Municipal Court judge sentenced Hines to a year of non-reporting probation, a 90-day suspended jail term and a $100 fine. Hines subsequently paid her BWC balance in full and the company’s coverage was reinstated.

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

BWC secures six convictions in May

Five Ohio workers and one business owner were convicted in May on workers’ compensation fraud and related charges.

The six convictions raise BWC’s total convictions for the 2019 calendar year to 38.

“When people cheat the BWC system, they are cheating the employers and hard-working Ohioans across this state who play by the rules,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Stephanie McCloud. “Congratulations to our special investigations department for stopping this fraudulent behavior.”

In order of most recent case, those convicted include:

James Nichols of Cleveland, Ohio
BWC investigators found Nichols working as a janitor and office manager while collecting BWC benefits. Nichols pleaded guilty May 13 to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor. He was sentenced to 150 days in jail, suspended for two years of community control. He was ordered to pay BWC $3,525 in restitution. He made a $1,000 payment at sentencing.

Deborah Rosenlieb of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio
Rosenlieb pleaded guilty May 9 in Summit County Common Pleas Court to workers’ compensation fraud, a fourth-degree felony, after investigators found her collecting her late father’s BWC benefits for two years. A judge ordered her to pay BWC $29,418 in restitution and serve two years of community service.

Jesse Lemaster, dba Lemaster Tree Care, Springfield, Ohio
Lemaster pleaded guilty May 8 to two counts of failure to comply, both second-degree misdemeanors, for operating his business without a valid BWC policy. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail on each charge, which was suspended pending a July 10 hearing, at which time he is to prove to the court he has valid workers’ compensation coverage.

Natasha Mitchum of Youngstown, Ohio
Mitchum pleaded guilty May 2 in Franklin County Common Pleas Court to workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor, after BWC found her working as a call center employee/customer service representative while receiving disability benefits. She was sentenced to 180 days in jail, suspended for three years of community control, and ordered to pay BWC $1,863 in restitution.

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