Sharing strategies to battle the opioid epidemic

By Brian Wilson, DC, BWC Medical Projects Director

How do we make headway in combating the opioid epidemic? The fact is there are many answers to that question. We’ve learned here in Ohio that tackling this issue must be a collaborative effort, and we can all learn from each other.

I know from my work with the International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions (IAIABC) that my counterparts in other states feel the same.

The IAIABC is an international association of workers’ comp agencies and industry stakeholders. BWC regularly engages IAIABC and its members, leaders at similar agencies across the country, to discuss policy and regulatory issues that affect the workers’ comp industry. One of those leading issues is the opioid epidemic.

I have the honor of working closely with IAIABC and its executive director, Jennifer Wolf-Horejsh, as a member of its Medical Issues Committee. The committee gathers information on how local and state agencies are managing important issues like the use of formularies, drug educational materials and prescription drug monitoring programs.

In June 2018, Ms. Wolf-Horejsh and I had the privilege of speaking at Ohio’s 2018 Opiate Conference in Columbus, Ohio. Here, we gave a glimpse into preliminary findings of the report to-date and compared Ohio to other states for those who attended.

Most recently, I sat on the Opioid Task Force, a multi-state collaborative effort that recently released the Opioid Policy Inventory a compilation of survey data from 33 states and their responses to the opioid epidemic. The report is a summary of major strategies, including which states are using them, along with links to national resources.

Understanding the incredible reach of this issue, and that everyone with a stake in this crisis can learn from each other, the report provides not just a workers’ compensation perspective, but a collective look at what a variety of local and state agencies are doing. Our goal is to create a dynamic and collaborative conversation starter piece for policy-makers across the country.

This report is important because it allows states to review strategies that are working elsewhere and they may be able to replicate. It could also stimulate fresh ideas. Thanks to all the outstanding committee members whom I served alongside during the development of this document.

I hope you’ll take the time to review the report* and use it as a reference, especially if you’re involved in efforts to ease the impact of this epidemic in your community.

*This is a living report and it will be updated as states report new strategies to the IAIABC.

 

Sharing insights and achievements in workers’ comp

By Kendra DePaul, BWC Other States Coverage Manager

In workers’ comp, we sure do love our acronyms. One of my favorites is the IAIABC which states for the International Association of Industrial Accident Board and Commission.

The IAIABC is an association that brings together workers’ compensation administrators, regulators and leaders to discuss policy and regulatory issues affecting workers’ compensation systems around the world.

Workers’ compensation is a state-based system and although rules and laws vary between states, we also have a lot in common. IAIABC’s annual convention provided an opportunity for the various states (and countries) to discuss common challenges, solutions and ways to impact the system.

The conference was held in Portland, Oregon this year and it was my first year attending. The topics discussed were familiar to those in the industry, including disability management and return to work, employee vs. independent contractor classification, promotion of health and safety, and the like.

A common topic that often comes up at these meetings is employee recruiting and how we are going to replace the knowledge and experience of many talented workers’ comp staff who may be retiring soon. The focus is often on how jobs in the workers’ compensation field have many good things to offer: stability, career advancement, opportunities for growth, the ability to help people, and the need to recruit millennials.

Since I am a millennial, I will say that all those things ring true and I very much enjoy spending my days in the workers’ comp world. I was honored this year to be recognized by IAIABC as a NextGen recipient.

The award recognizes professionals under the age of 40 who are making an impact on workers’ compensation.

As part of the award, I participated in a session titled A Conversation with the NextGen where we shared our thoughts and insights on the industry.

I had a great time meeting the other NextGen recipients and discussing the future of workers’ comp.

Although we are from different states and work in many different roles, there are common themes of needing to improve communication, leverage data and move towards a customer-focused system. There was agreement that for a lot of people, having a workers’ compensation claim is a very personal and potentially life-altering situation and it is important to not lose the people in the process.

If you’re looking for a career path in an industry on the verge of making important improvements, look no further!

Striving for world class

By Bill Teets, BWC Communications Director

It is no secret that successful organizations have a strong sense of direction and purpose. At the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, we want to be a world class insurer.

We have a clear mission to “protect Ohio’s workers and employers through the prevention, care and management of workplace injuries and illnesses at fair rates.” Keep people safe. Make them better when they’re hurt. Do it effectively to not over-burden business. We also have a core set of values—service, simplicity and savings—that guide us.

While these are essential to being world class, they’re not enough. As communications director for BWC, I spend much of my time discovering all the great things happening here and sharing them with the outside world. There are so many stories to tell. Great investing has helped us return $3 billion in rebates over the last several years. Ohio’s injury rates are below the national average and our claims are at record lows. We’re finding ways to speed care to the injured and our nationally recognized pharmacy management program has drastically reduced opioid usage among injured workers.

What I’ve learned from telling these stories is that world class organizations have world class people. Our mission and values may guide us, but ultimately, it is the people that deliver on those promises. Several recent accolades prove my point.

Recently, our Chief of Enterprise Services, Shadya Yazback was named a C-Suite Award Winner by Columbus Business First. In their own words, “the C-Suite Awards recognizes Central Ohio’s top executives for their contribution and commitment to the community and their outstanding professional performance.”

This year’s 19 winners were selected by a panel of business school professors in Ohio. Among her achievements at BWC is the implementation of a multi-year, multi-million dollar replacement of our core claims and policy management systems—systems used by more than half our 1,800 employees to serve Ohio’s injured workers and employers. It was not always a smooth transition, but as the driver of the process she proved world-class people are able to adapt and keep an organization driving toward a common goal.

Kendra DePaul is another example of our world-class staff. Kendra has been named as one of 11 NexGen award winners by the International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions (IAIABC). She achieved this accolade for leading Ohio’s effort to build our Other States Coverage and managing the program. Because of this program, Ohio employers who do business in other states have options that make life easier when it comes to covering their employees.

That same organization awarded our pharmacy department the second annual IAIABC Innovation Award. That entry, “Saving Lives — Building a Model Pharmacy Program Amid a Deadly Epidemic” reflects Ohio’s efforts to reduce opioid abuse and excessive prescribing of the painkillers while building a pharmacy program that’s recognized as a leader in the industry today. Because of the pharmacy department efforts, led by John Hanna, who just retired, we have reduced the number of injured workers dependent on opioids from 8,000 in 2011 to 4,100 today. You can point to policies, but it was John and his people who took the initiative to make this reality.

Three world-class accomplishments. Three world-class people. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. At BWC, we have 1,800 other dedicated individuals who work every day to help keep workplaces safe, get the injured back to their lives, and help reduce bureaucratic obstacles to their success. Not a bad place to work.