Description of the SAW/RTW Policy Collaborative’s Policy Working Groups

The SAW/RTW Policy Collaborative’s Policy Working Groups (PWGs) are charged with: conducting discussions to share ideas, identify policy gaps, and propose action-oriented policy responses; collecting evidence of best practices and successful strategies; developing model policy products and technical assistance tools to address identified gaps and needs; producing a policy action paper and other policy products, such as issue briefs, model policy language, infographics, webcasts, and conference presentations; and disseminating these products to policymakers and other stakeholders in developing and implementing stay-at-work (SAW)/return-to-work (RTW) policy. You can see what the SAW/RTW Policy Collaborative has done in the past on the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) SAW/RTW web page.


The current PWGs are focused on the following three topics:


Replicating/Adapting Washington’s COHE Model

In the State of Washington, Centers of Occupational Health and Education (COHEs) work with medical providers, employers, and injured workers in a community-based program designed to ensure timely, effective, and coordinated services. COHEs improve injured worker outcomes and reduce disability by training providers and coordinating care. This PWG is focusing on how states can pilot or implement key elements of the COHE model or the full model. PWG members are also looking at the COHE model as an example of efforts that align with models of collaborative care and other approaches to ensuring optimal outcomes for injured workers, their employers, payers, providers, and others involved in workers’ compensation and stay-at-work and return-to-work processes.

In February 2017, the SAW/RTW Policy Collaborative conducted the Washington's COHE Model Online Dialogue to get comments and ideas on the topic of "SAW/RTW Care Coordination Strategies from Washington’s COHE Model." The Collaborative also conducted two webinars on the topic.

Musculoskeletal Injuries and Pain Management

Many workers experience injuries on or off the job that lead to acute or chronic pain. At the same time, the United States is experiencing an opioid addiction addiction and overdose epidemic, with more than 90 Americans dying each day due to opioid overdose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This situation makes for a challenging backdrop against which providers work with injured workers on treatment and management of injuries, other conditions, and pain. This group is focusing on policies to support provider practices for the safe pharmacological treatment of pain and other methods of pain management, use of biopsychosocial approaches to pain treatment and management, and other ways to help injured workers recover from injury, manage pain safely, and stay attached to the workforce or get back to work as soon as possible after an injury or onset of another condition.

Transition Back to Work

The transition back to work PWG is developing policy products to help states and other public and private entities support workers in returning to work on a safe timeline, to maximize participation in the labor force throughout the course of their recovery and ensure the best possible outcomes. While the other two PWGs are focusing on services to promote recovery and minimize work disability, this group is focusing on strategies to assist workers in the transition back to work as early in their recovery process as possible. Key strategies being explored include temporary partial disability payments, partial return to work (such as reduced hours or light duty), and employer incentives and subsidies for wages and workplace modifications or accommodations.

In April 2017, the SAW/RTW Policy Collaborative conducted an online dialogue on two topics that explored what it would take for states to develop initiatives or programs, or institute policy changes, that support workers in the transition back to work:

View the Partial Return-to-Work Dialogue Topic

View the Employer Subsidies and Incentives Dialogue Topic