WorkSafeBC psychology advisor’s role in injured worker’s mental health

Issue: BCMJ, Vol. 59, No. 7, September 2017, page(s) 368 WorkSafeBC
Greg Meloche, PhD, RPsych

Workers with injuries that have a mental health component can be complex to diagnose, treat, and assist toward a successful return to work. Unique clinical challenges include understanding mental job demands, establishing reasonable work expectations, designing modified duties, and providing needed job accommodations. WorkSafeBC case management teams can help.

Case management teams include psychology advisors who support injured workers through diagnosis, coordination of care, and return to work. WorkSafeBC also has mental health specialists who actively monitor workers at risk of suicide and assist in providing support to vulnerable workers.

The role of psychology advisors is analogous to the role of medical advisors—facilitating the collection of required information from assessing and treating clinicians, and ensuring case managers understand the contents of the reports to assist in their adjudication and management of the claim. As part of the case management team, psychology advisors collaborate with medical advisors to develop a comprehensive clinical intervention plan, liaise with community clinicians, and monitor clinical recovery and return-to-work efforts.

An attending physician’s report to WorkSafeBC often provides the first clinical documentation of a worker’s mental health issues, and initiates a formal assessment and adjudication. While WorkSafeBC may arrange and coordinate needed treatment, the attending physician maintains primary responsibility for patient care. As the attending physician, you may be contacted by a psychology advisor or mental health specialist to discuss your patient’s mental health issues, exchange clinical information, coordinate care with that of other clinicians, or intervene with patients experiencing suicidal thoughts or requiring hospitalization. We encourage you to communicate with WorkSafeBC staff and to coordinate directly with other clinicians involved in your patient’s care, particularly when planning a return to work.

Finding appropriate mental health services for your injured worker patient can be a challenge. A psychology advisor can help arrange required mental health care for patients with an accepted work injury. WorkSafeBC can expedite psychological, neuropsychological, and psychiatric assessments through a vetted network of registered psychologists and psychiatrists. Similarly WorkSafeBC can assist in managing referrals for mental health treatment such as individual cognitive-behavioral therapy, multidisciplinary mental health treatment programs, or as a component of most physical rehabilitation programs, through a vetted network of psychiatrists, registered psychologists, registered social workers, and registered clinical counselors. 

For individual psychotherapy, we work with your patient to find a clinician who can provide the needed service in a timely manner, within a reasonable travel distance. Where possible, we will match the treatment provider with the patient’s preference for therapist gender, language, or other important clinical variables. If your patient requires a specific type of program or individual service, simply provide a description of the needed service and our psychology advisors, who are familiar with WorkSafeBC’s program offerings, will make appropriate recommendations.

Your reports provide valuable information by outlining the patient’s clinical impairments, how these affect job performance, and the job modifications and supports that would assist in a successful return to work. Psychology advisors can then better assist the case manager in identifying potential return-to-work issues, translating clinical recommendations into claim-related limitations and restrictions, and developing an actionable return-to-work plan.

Please contact WorkSafeBC and speak with a psychology advisor about your patient’s claim-related mental health needs. We look forward to collaborating with you to promote the worker’s successful recovery and return to work.
—Greg Meloche, PhD, RPsych
WorkSafeBC Mental Health Services Manager

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This article is the opinion of WorkSafeBC and has not been peer reviewed by the BCMJ Editorial Board.