Smoking, Depression, and Substance Abuse Wellness Programs in Workers’ Comp

wellness in workers compensationIt has been proven many times that employers can reduce their workers’ compensation costs by investing in a wellness program.  Notwithstanding the imperial data that demonstrates the effectiveness of these programs, many interested stakeholders are resistant to them based on the perceived cost or other imaginary barriers when it comes to improving the health of their workforce.  Instead of focusing on these hurdles, thought leaders within the industry should focus on the bigger picture to reduce costs in their programs.



Smoking Cessation Programs


Notwithstanding nationwide efforts to curb smoking, tobacco use remains a popular habit in millions of Americans.  It is well-documented that smoking and the use of its other forms, including smokeless tobacco have significant negative health consequences.  These include many common issues Americans struggle with such as cancer, heart disease and other respiratory problems.  The use of tobacco also reduces the effectiveness of physical rehabilitation and healing following a work-injury.


Access to smoking cessation programs is now more affordable following the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  Under the ACA, all qualifying individual and group health plans are required to include these programs as an “essential health benefit.”  This means that health plans must allow participants access to programs and services with no copay.


Changes in health care have also had a positive impact on people who remain without insurances.  In many instances, employers have taken the initiative to provide their employees, regardless of health instance coverage, access to programs that assist people kick the habit.  This also includes access to patches, gum and other devices that promote smoking cessation.



Depression and Mental Health Awareness


Americans as a who have also become more sensitive to mental health related issues.  This includes greater access to care and parity of coverage when compared to treatment to physical ailments and injuries.  The essence of the awakening and change in attitudes is better resources for employees to receive the care they need.


While Americans now have more options when it comes to purchasing health insurance, many remain without.  This has led to opportunities for proactive employers to provide resources when it comes to psychological and psychiatric issues.  This includes:


  • Training for employees on how to recognize a coworker suffering from a mental health related issue;


  • Greater access to mental health care and services, including treatment by specialists; and


  • Easily accessible outreach programs such as supportive and non-judgmental telephonic services for thoughts struggling with mental health needs.



Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment


Use and abuse of substances, included those that are legal, can have a negative impact on the workplace.  This includes decreased productivity, diminished service of customers and injury.  Failure to address these issues in the context of a workers’ compensation program can only hurt the bottom line and dramatically increase costs.


Proactive employers need to take this issue seriously.  This starts with the implementation of a substance abuse policy that is consistently applied.  It must also apply to all employees, regardless of their position within a company.


It is also important for employers to assist employees who may use and abuses these substances.  This includes the following methods to implement:


  • Reporting of substance abuse issues within the workplace via confidential means;


  • Drug testing that is performed in a manner consistent with state and federal laws; and


  • Resources such as help lines and other medical/mental health professionals who can assist employees impacted by use/abuse issues.





There are many benefits to any workers’ compensation program when interested stakeholders look for creative and cost-effective measures to improve employee wellness.  They not only cut down on the frequency or injuries within the workplace, but they have many other benefits.  Among these include an increase in morale and reduce turnover.  The bottom line also includes lower workers’ compensation program costs.




Michael Stack - AmaxxAuthor Michael Stack, Principal, Amaxx LLC. He is an expert in workers compensation cost containment systems and helps employers reduce their work comp costs by 20% to 50%.  He works as a consultant to large and mid-market clients, is co-author of Your Ultimate Guide To Mastering Workers Comp Costs, a comprehensive step-by-step manual of cost containment strategies based on hands-on field experience, and is founder & lead trainer of Amaxx Workers’ Comp Training Center. .



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