I’ve been serving as a workers’ compensation attorney in Washington State for over 15 years. One of my biggest challenges is to find mental health treatment for clients with an L&I claim. I will go a long way to help my clients. However, it’s sometimes impossible to find treating psychiatrists who are medical doctors. Yet, there are some good news from the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) concerning this matter.

 

Mental health treatment in a workers’ compensation claim

In the past, it has been easier to find treating clinical psychologists. Recently, all that changed, and it’s become more challenging than before. But there’s some good news. A little over a year ago, L&I started a 4-year pilot project. The project authorizes and pays Master’s Level Therapists (MLT) to treat people with a work injury claim.

 

Interestingly, under current L&I medical treatment guidelines, the system doesn’t permit MLTs to provide mental health treatment in L&I claims. However, L&I is conducting the pilot program to provide structure. In the process, L&I is collecting data on behavioral and mental health services that MLTs provide to work injury claimants.

 

L&I program for mental health professionals

The enrollment for the 4-year pilot program began back in November 2019. L&I said it will allow up to 300 MLTs into the program. Initial signups include licensed independent clinical social workers (LICSW), licensed marriage and family therapists (LMFT), and licensed mental health counselors (LMHC).

 

Therapists and counselors that wish to apply for the L&I pilot program must meet some requirements. For one, every therapist must complete an L&I training module and submit a completion certificate with their application. In addition, each mental health therapist must submit a Non-network Provider Application. Finally, L&I requires mental health counselors to also submit the MLT Pilot Supplemental Application.

 

L&I claim and mental health treatment coverage

Once L&I approves an application, the MLT can treat work injury claimants under their workers’ compensation claim. Of course, you have to meet certain criteria for treatment coverage. For example, the attending provider on the L&I claim must refer the work injury claimant to the MLT. The referral should be for appropriate psychotherapy treatment, for a mental health condition that L&I previously accepted under the claim.

 

An MLT cannot diagnose mental health conditions or perform mental health evaluations following a workplace injury. However, in cases with accepted mental health conditions, the mental health therapist in the pilot program can provide eight treatment sessions. Importantly, these sessions do not require treatment pre-authorization or going through the utilization review process. After that, additional sessions beyond the first eight require a utilization review authorization.

 

The impact of mental health services after a work injury

Mental health conditions can seriously (and very negatively) impact your recovery after a workplace accident or work-related illness. As an L&I attorney representing work injury claimants, I hope this pilot program becomes permanent. It’s important to provide people that have a workers’ compensation claim with early and easy access to mental health treatment. I strongly believe this program will result in much better outcomes compared to the current status quo.

 

For more information, please refer to the Master’s Level Therapists pilot program on the L&I website.