UofL physiatrists provide key role in RETAIN Kentucky, a service to help people return to work after injury or illness

University of Louisville physical medicine and rehabilitation physicians Matthew Adamkin and Priya Chandan are helping lead a new initiative in Kentucky, funded by the U.S. Department of Labor, to help people with illnesses or injuries keep working and avoid long-term disability.

The program, RETAIN Kentucky, which stands for Retaining Employment and Talent after Injury/Illness Network, is a free service for Kentucky residents who have experienced an illness or injury outside the workplace to help them obtain services or accommodations so they can continue working.

“The benefits of maintaining or going back to work are immense beyond the financial – psychosocial, physical, mental – so it’s much better than ending up on long-term disability,” Adamkin said. “We have had stroke patients who otherwise would have gone on disability who now are returning to work. We have folks who have had COVID who were hospitalized or had prolonged illness who are working on getting back to work.”

Once an individual is enrolled in RETAIN, a return-to-work coordinator helps them access existing resources, such as workplace accommodations or assistance with transportation, rent or utilities. The coordinator will help the individual develop a return-to-work plan that provides personalized support including assistance with health care and employer communications.

In the pilot phase of the program, Adamkin and Chandan, faculty members with the UofL School of Medicine, advised program leaders and were responsible for more than 60% of referrals to the program through UofL Health – Frazier Rehab Institute. Now, Kentucky is one of only five states to receive funding from the U.S. Department of Labor to expand the program in its second phase.

“At Frazier we see such a wide variety of patients – stroke, spinal cord injury, COVID patients – but regardless of their diagnosis, whether they rolled their ankle playing flag football over the weekend or had a stroke, everybody benefits because there are so many resources available,” Adamkin said.

RETAIN Kentucky is led by Kentucky’s Department of Workforce Investment in the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet. Implementation is overseen by the University of Kentucky, with a subaward to UofL and Frazier Rehab Institute. UK Healthcare and UofL Health are the leading health organizations for the project, which aims to enroll 3,200 people over four years from across the state. Adamkin and Chandan also are working to educate faculty, residents and medical students in the UofL School of Medicine about the program and the benefits of these services on patients’ quality of life and conducting research to determine how the program performs in terms of both health and employment outcomes.

If you or someone you know has experienced an injury or illness outside the workplace and would benefit from assistance in returning to work, visit https://www.kyretain.org or call 859-562-3251.