May 28, 2021
With May being Mental Health Awareness Month, this is a great time to bring attention to the mental and behavioral health issues that so many injured workers face. Workplace injuries can result in increased risk of depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, and substance abuse among those affected. In addition to negatively impacting well-being, mental health conditions can also represent serious barriers to recovery and positive outcomes in workers’ compensation.
This is why it is essential for our industry to treat injured workers from a standpoint of whole person care. In addition to diagnosing and treating an injury or an illness, a whole-person care approach involves incorporating an array of potentially overlooked factors. These include mental and behavioral health, as well as social considerations, such as home and family life. For injured workers, treatment plans built on whole person care can lead to better long-term outcomes and wellness.
There is growing evidence for the interconnectedness of physical health, mental health, and sociological issues. For example, in workers’ compensation, the cost of treating the physical health of an injured worker can be up to three times higher1 if there are underlying behavioral health issues involved. Tackling this intersection successfully requires a broad and proactive biopsychosocial approach designed to identify potential risk factors as early as possible in the care cycle.
What major mental, behavioral, and social health issues do injured workers face?
After experiencing a workplace injury, workers and their families can encounter a broad spectrum of issues. In some cases, these mental health and social concerns preexist the injury, while in others, the injury is a primary catalyst. In either situation, they often become entangled.
Stakeholders across workers’ compensation should have the resources to identify and address major issues that can be obstacles to overcoming injury and returning to productive activity, including:
- Emotional health and mental health disorders, including depression, anxiety, and sleep disruption
- Substance abuse, with opioid use disorder being a significant concern for injured workers
- Financial burdens, either as a result of the injury or as a preexisting issue
- Food scarcity, with many injured workers living in remote areas or so-called “food deserts”
- Lack of access to childcare, which can be a major burden for injured workers who often require care themselves
Overcoming these and other psychosocial health concerns requires implementing behavioral and social health training programs at all levels of care. It is also critical to use data and analytics to identify the patients who are at the highest levels of risk for requiring intervention.
Behavioral health providers who specialize in supporting better whole patient health outcomes are another valuable resource that can help bridge this key gap in care for injured workers.
How a whole-person behavioral approach can work to improve outcomes
Behavioral support providers such as AiRCare have highly trained professionals and dedicated resources to develop strategies that facilitate injured worker recovery from a comprehensive biopsychosocial perspective. Care is built on enhanced data capabilities for mental and behavioral health screenings, and is provided by mental health professionals who can supply effective therapeutic services. Combined with internal programs, dedicated behavioral support can have a meaningful impact on any workers’ compensation organization’s ability to deliver life-changing, whole person care.
1Source: “The Five Most Costly Conditions, 1996 and 2006: Estimates for the U.S. Civilian Noninstitutionalized Population,” Soni, A., Statistical Brief #248. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, 2009.
Blog by: Paradigm