The Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet’s Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) has been awarded a $2.5 million U.S. Department of Labor grant to help injured or ill employees remain in their job or return to work. Kentucky is one of only eight states to receive a federal Retaining Employment and Talent After Injury/Illness Network (RETAIN) demonstration grant to develop a pilot program.
“It is an honor to be one of the eight states at the forefront of exploring ways to help Kentuckians return to the workforce after a potentially debilitating event,” said Josh Benton, deputy secretary of the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet. “When employees are sidelined whether due to an injury or illness, it can have a long-lasting impact on them, their families and employer. With early intervention and a coordinated approach, we can help employees stay on the job or return sooner,” he said.
The RETAINing Kentucky’s Workforce through Universal Design (RKW-UD) pilot will focus on using early, coordinated health and employment services to prevent long-term unemployment due to injury or illness caused by events such as falls, lifts or strains. Research shows that there is a small window of opportunity to get or keep someone in the workforce. Once that opportunity passes, the likelihood of an individual remaining employed is low. Under this project, an action plan will be developed to address barriers for injured workers returning to work, and will include accommodations or alternate work in the employment setting
In addition, the pilot will target workers who have a substance use disorder that exists or develops as esult of taking medication after an injury or illness. According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), these types of injuries and illnesses accounted for the largest diagnoses (32.3 percent) for Social Security Disability Insurance in Kentucky and the United States (36 percent).
The RKW-UD pilot will use a team-based approach with partners from government, organizations, health care providers and labor and industry to identify injured or ill workers who are at risk of dropping out of the workforce after an event, giving them support and resources to stay in the workforce. One of the key components of the pilot is working with occupational health staff that have expertise in helping people recover daily functions after injury or illness.
“Job injuries and illnesses affect our workforce every day in Kentucky. This project will allow us to return workers to their jobs as quickly as possible. Keeping workers in their jobs benefits the worker, the employer and the Commonwealth as a whole,” said Cora McNabb, executive director of the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation.
RETAIN is led by DOL’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), in partnership with the department’s Employment and Training Administration and the Social Security Administration. Nearly $19 million has been awarded to eight states during the first phase of RETAIN to develop and test early intervention approaches that can be replicated in other states.
In the second phase, four of the pilots will be chosen and given an additional $19 million to implement their models. In Kentucky, OVR is the led agency for the project. The project will be launched in the Louisville metropolitan area and surrounding counties of Bullitt, Henry, Oldham, Shelby, Spencer and Trimble
The Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet coordinates learning programs from P-16 and manages and supports training and employment functions in the Department of Workforce Investment. For more information about our programs, visit ewdc.ky.gov or kcc.ky.gov.