About RETAIN Kentucky

The Retaining Employment and Talent After Injury/Illness Network (RETAIN) Kentucky program is a federally funded initiative exploring stay-at-work/return-to-work (SAW/RTW) strategies. Led by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy in partnership with the Employment and Training Administration and the Social Security Administration, RETAIN is engaging various state teams in a series of SAW/RTW demonstration projects.

Known as RETAIN Kentucky, the Kentucky extension of RETAIN is being led by the Kentucky Office of Vocational Rehabilitation together with the University of Kentucky Human Development Institute and committed project partners, including The Council of State Governments.

The aim of RETAIN is to help injured or ill workers remain in or return to their jobs by implementing and evaluating early intervention strategies. The unique intervention program works with employees, employers and healthcare providers, to address issues that can be factors in successful return to work.

Building on state efforts including Kentucky Work Matters, Employment First, and the Call to Action to Meet Commonwealth Workforce Needs, RETAIN Kentucky is using peer support, assistive technology, and universal design to promote quality, coordinated health and employment-related SAW/RTW services. Through the project, RETAIN Kentucky Service Coordinators will work directly with employers to assess the impact of SAW/RTW activities and help workers facing illness or injury remain in or return to the workforce.

In 2018, RETAIN Kentucky began as a pilot program (Phase 1), which served more than 200 employees and trained more than 1,100 health care providers and stakeholders. In May 2021, the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet’s Office of Vocational Rehabilitation received a $21.6 million grant to fund Phase 2 of the program, which includes expanded implementation statewide to serve more than 3,000 employees. Phase 2 will also address enduring implications that COVID-19 will have on the physical and mental health of our workforce. This free program is open to employees 18 and older who have non-occupational illnesses or injuries that prevent them from performing their jobs. Participants will get support to identify their stay-at-work and return-to-work goals and take steps to achieve those goals.

Why Are SAW/RTW Strategies Important?

Every year, millions of Americans leave the labor force following illness or injury, which can result in a negative ripple effect. The individual leaving their job can face health challenges, financial problems, and a poorer quality of life; employers incur unexpected expenses due to the loss of a valuable employee; and governments at all levels face reductions in the tax base, costly payouts of disability benefits, and decreased economic activity.

The good news is that many ill and injured workers could remain in their jobs or the workforce if they received timely, coordinated supports and services as part of SAW/RTW programs. Such strategies and programs involve early action and coordination among ill and injured employees, their employers, and their healthcare and employment-services professionals—all with the goal of helping the employee stay at or return to the workforce when medically possible.

That is what RETAIN Kentucky is all about.