Retaining Employment and Talent After Injury/Illness Network (RETAIN)
RETAIN is a joint project with the Department of Labor (DOL) testing early interventions to help workers stay at work or return to work quickly after experiencing the onset of a work-threatening injury, illness, or disability. The policy goals are to reduce long-term disability – including the need for SSDI or SSI benefits – and to increase employment retention and labor force participation among those individuals. DOL awarded cooperative agreements to states to implement RETAIN projects, and SSA will evaluate the project.
Although the states are each implementing their own unique models, all RETAIN projects are centered around early coordination of health care and employment-related supports and services for participating workers. The interventions include the following, at minimum:
- Early identification of workers, very soon after the onset of a condition that could affect their ability to work;
- Using specialized Return-to-Work Coordinators to coordinate health and employment service delivery;
- Training health care providers in occupational health best practices;
- Facilitating early communication and return-to-work efforts between workers, their employers, and their health care providers; and
- Partnerships among relevant state agencies and at least one health care system.
In October 2018, SSA awarded a contract to Mathematica Policy Research to evaluate the RETAIN state projects. The final evaluation report is expected to be published in 2026.
In April 2021, DOL awarded Phase 2 funds for Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Ohio, and Vermont to build upon their work in RETAIN Phase 1. Phase 2 projects began enrolling participants as early as October of 2021.
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