A motorcycle mechanic, a physician and a computer programmer have returned to the workforce thanks to a new partnership established by the Louisiana Workforce Commission that was approved last year by the State Legislature. The agreement between Louisiana Rehabilitation Services and the state’s trust fund for partially disabled workers is successfully putting hundreds back to work.
So far, more than 350 Louisiana workers have received intensive, personalized employment training and individualized vocational rehabilitation services provided by LRS from the Second Injury Fund. Of those, 177 workers successfully returned to work, while another 170 are expected to return to work this year.
In 2011, state Rep. Erich Ponti authored House Bill 502, which set aside 1 percent of the Second Injury Fund’s annual budget or $460,000 to assist workers through LRS, a department within the LWC.
LRS’ vocational rehabilitation program receives approximately $4 in matching federal funds for every dollar in non-federal funds, which resulted in the partnership receiving roughly $1.8 million. To date, more than $900,000 has been spent to help in the rehabilitation of these workers with efforts underway this year to serve many more.
“This reform legislation and innovative collaboration has successfully allowed the Louisiana Workforce Commission to transform the fund from a subsidy to a re-employment program,” said LWC Executive Director Curt Eysink. “By leveraging LRS’s matching fund, we are able to reach more clients at a fraction of the cost to the state. The agencies are committed to ensuring that the partnership continues to grow in order to further help other injured and disabled workers get back to work.”
In the past, the fund has been used only to reimburse employers or insurers for workers’ compensation costs for workers with pre-existing disabilities who are reinjured, and did not work to incentivize hiring people known to have a permanent, partial disability. The fund typically provides financial incentives and protections to employers who hire--and insurers who cover--workers with disabilities.
LRS has made efforts to streamline and expedite the application and eligibility process for those workers referred by private vocational rehabilitation companies. LRS has assigned points of contact in each of its eight regions to accept these referrals.
Anyone who has one of 34 defined permanent, partial disabilities may be eligible for services and should contact LRS at 1-800-737-2958. Services include assistive technology, orthotics and prosthetics, transportation, job development and placement services, along with other vocational rehabilitation services.
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