The Partnership for Workplace Mental Health this month recognized Puget Sound Energy as an innovator for the utility's disability case management approach to address the effects of psychiatric and cognitive functioning issues on employee behavior and work performance.
“Evaluation forms were available to help obtain documentation from an employee's physician or clinician regarding a worker's specific physical limitations to determine whether reasonable accommodations might help address a physical impairment. However, no forms were available for mental impairments and documentation of specific restrictions was rarely received.”
"Recognizing that wellness includes more than physical health alone, we have a disability program to accommodate cognitive and behavioral restrictions coupled with a positive workplace culture to help keep people working productively," said Marla Mellies, PSE vice president of Human Resources. "In addition to decreasing the stigma of mental illness and learning disabilities, our disability program has the added benefit of encouraging individual employees, co-workers and families to use the services at their disposal particularly in this time of economic distress."
According to the website of the Partnership for Workplace Mental Health, a program of the American Psychiatric Foundation based in Arlington, Va., "disability due to mental illness is a significant and prevalent issue. When compared with other diseases - including cancer and heart disease - mental illness ranks first in causing disability in the United States."
The partnership promotes the business case for quality mental health care, including early recognition, access to care and effective treatment. Its searchable Employer Innovations online database at http://www.workplacementalhealth.org/search.aspx helps employers take action to address mental health at the workplace by providing case examples of successful corporate approaches.
Jenny Haykin, PSE's integrated leaves and accommodation consultant since 2007, gained experience in this area as the disability services team lead with King County government (an employer of 13,500) where she facilitated accommodations for employees with psychiatric, learning, and other disabilities.
"Working for King County, I found methods for addressing employees' physical impairments were more advanced than for mental impairments," explained Haykin. "Evaluation forms were available to help obtain documentation from an employee's physician or clinician regarding a worker's specific physical limitations to determine whether reasonable accommodations might help address a physical impairment. However, no forms were available for mental impairments and documentation of specific restrictions was rarely received."
Haykin spearheaded an effort to develop forms and procedures that would facilitate accommodations for workers with diagnosed psychiatric or learning impairments. She worked with King County's team of vocational rehabilitation counselors and area psychiatrists to develop the following forms for health care providers to assess the worker's capacities and limitations when evaluating or treating employees with psychiatric and cognitive conditions:
- The Cognitive and Behavioral Capacities Evaluation form which lists a variety of job demands for the health care provider to review and respond to.
- The Cognitive and Behavioral Job Analysis form to document the cognitive and behavioral requirements specific to an employee's job.
Both forms list the same cognitive and behavioral capacities so they may be used separately or in conjunction with one another.
Haykin continues to use these forms at PSE as a step in the accommodation process for employees with cognitive and/or behavioral limitations. The procedure for using the forms begins when it becomes known there is a psychiatric condition or learning disability. The employee, or a vocational rehabilitation counselor, case manager or human resources representative (all with permission from the employee) then provides information to the health care provider or learning disability specialist on the demands of the job. At the same time, information about work performance concerns and specific questions are provided. This educates the health care provider or learning disability specialist so that as they make their assessments, they will better understand what is expected of the employee at work, and what information the employer will need to be able to facilitate potential accommodations with the employee.
: Partnership for Workplace Mental Health