$2.5M grant awarded to project helping injured employees get back to work

The U.S. Department of Labor has awarded a $2.5 million grant to a project that helps injured employees get back to work faster.

The grant was awarded to the Minnesota RETAIN project, a group of organizations and government departments serving Minnesota residents with work-related disabilities.

Mayo Clinic is a participant in the RETAIN project, and eligible to receive part of the grant. Dr. Laura Breeher, a senior occupational medicine physician at Mayo Clinic, describes their contributions to the project as threefold: keeping employees at work if they can, getting them back to work if they cannot and educating employers to tell the difference.

Breeher described a proactive approach to helping employees suffering from injury or illness.

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"One of the things that we do is we focus on what they can do instead of what they can't do," she said. "Just because this person had an injury, or just because they had an illness doesn't mean they can't do anything at all."

Breeher also said that Mayo Clinic will supervise programs that help employees readjust after an injury. She said that these programs are adapted from ones already in operation within Mayo Clinic, and that they will send out return-to-work coordinators to work with employers.

"If an employee is injured and can't do their regular job, we will look for another temporary job within the clinic here to help her stay engaged and keep coming to work until she heals enough to go back to her regular job," she said.

Breeher added that Mayo Clinic is trying to break a vicious cycle that typically starts with employees suffering injuries that keep them from work and ends in prolonged unemployment.

"Not being able to work can be very stressful for someone. It can have financial impacts," she said. "So this program is basically bringing together a bunch of existing programs and knowledge to give that injured worker a whole team behind them to help get them back to work."

Correction (Oct. 4, 2018): The grant came from the U.S. Department of Labor. An earlier version of this story described it coming from the Minnesota Department of Labor.