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Workers comp training targets prevention

Posted On: May. 1, 2019 12:00 AM CST

The issue of preventing suicide among injured workers has been getting more attention in workers compensation circles.

Sedgwick Claims Management Services Inc. renewed training for claims handlers in suicide prevention counseling, as the company saw an uptick in the number of injured workers dealing with such issues as depression related to pain and stress from less income and loss of work and threatening to take their lives, according to Dr. Teresa Bartlett, Troy, Michigan-based senior vice president of medical quality for the third-party administrator.

“People just get in a bad place,” she said. “Things were popping up and the claims examiners, nurses and call-center workers didn’t feel equipped to handle it.”

“Suicide ideation is at an all-time high in this country,” she said, adding the trend is industrywide for those managing injury claims, not just at Sedgwick. “There’s a lot of sensitivity training right now.” Suicide prevention is at the heart of most post-traumatic stress disorder laws for first responders, said Al Ortega, Albuquerque, New Mexico-based vice president of the International Association of Firefighters, Local 244 Chapter, who had been helping to plan a funeral for a 20-year retired firefighter who took his own life in April.

“It takes a toll,” he said of the work, which includes being on the scene during and after tragedies.

A new law in New Mexico that clears some of the red tape for firefighters with diagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder will hopefully provide those workers benefits ranging from psychological counseling to indemnity payments if the firefighter needs a break from the work, he said.

“This would allow people to come in and say, ‘I need help,’” said Mr. Ortega. “This has the potential to lower those numbers,” he added, referring to the disproportionately high number of first responders who take their own lives.