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Mental Health Injury: EAP Experts Needed
Mental Health Injury: EAP Experts Needed

I am seeing an increasing number of news stories related to mental health injuries on the job.

Debates seem to be increasing about how much workers' compensation coverage should be given to employees who suffer from these types of injuries.

In most cases, we are talking about emergency responders when we talk about mental health injuries—firefighters, EMTs, police officers, etc. The key injury is an acute stress reaction and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Should employees who sustain mental health injuries be entitled to workers' compensation insurance for their injuries?

Should benefits to pay for counseling also extend to family members?

In many states, workers' compensation benefits do not extend to mentally injured workers unless a physical injury contributes to, or causes the mental health injury.

As you may know, PTSD is not diagnosed right away like a broken leg. It takes a month of lingering symptoms (DSM IV).

This time-delay confounds effective advocacy for treatment and makes it difficult to argue for coverage and appropriate, timely assessments. Chronic PTSD and "delayed onset" PTSD can take three to six months to diagnose.

State legislatures are beginning to entertain legislation that address these questions. You should stay on top of what's going on in this arena because windows of opportunity open up for EAPs to insert their professional opinion needed by legislative bodies deliberating on legislation to add or refuse coverage under workers compensation laws.

Employee assistance professionals are on the front lines in dealing with these injuries, making assessments, and addressing family issues.

EAPs also play key roles in working with management and supervisors by stitching together effective communication between the injured, medical providers, and human resources. I can't think of a better group of expert witnesses. And needless to say, many people are going to learn about EAPs from public exposure that comes with expert witness testimony.

Here a few ways to stay on top of what's going on in your state with regard to workers' compensation coverage for mental health injuries:

  1. Find out from your state representative if bills or advocacy efforts are underway in your state to address this topic of concern.
  2. Find the advocacy group that has formed (often there is one) that is pushing the legislative changes to cover mental health injuries. Get on their E-mail alert and hard-copy mailing lists.
  3. Subscribe to the free "e-zine" mailing list for free flash reports regarding workers compensation. They will e-mail you frequently about many things, but you'll be surprised how many are relevant to employee assistance programming. A quick scan of headlines will take only seconds. Their e-mail link for sign up is: http://www.wcexec.com/PrintEd.aspx (Choose the free option!)

    For an interesting recent news story go here:

    Workers Compensation for Mental Health Injuries

    Reminder: Catalog coupons for the July/August EAPtools.com catalog expire today. Contact me for a brief extension if needed.

    Take care.

    Dan Feerst, Publisher