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September 1, 2000

State adopts changes to vocational rehabilitation purchases

TUMWATER - The Department of Labor & Industries today adopted changes to the way it purchases vocational services for injured workers in Washington.

The changes come in part, as a result of the Joint Legislative Audit Review Committee's audit of our workers' compensation system and the Vocational Purchasing Improvement Project completed by the William M. Mercer organization. Reports from both studies recommended raising minimum qualifications and requiring higher standards of private sector rehabilitation providers.

The new rules place service requirements into Washington Administrative Code rather than individual contracts. Compensation now will be determined through the use of a fee schedule rather than individual contracts.

Providers also will need to be certified through one of three national certification programs - Certified Rehabilitation Counselors, Certified Disability Management Specialist or the American Board of Vocational Experts.

Vocational providers registered with the department before Dec. 1, 2000 will have six years to meet the new minimum qualifications. After that date, providers will have to submit an application and show that they meet those qualifications. All providers will have to apply for a provider number with the department.

The qualification requirements follow a national trend to require credentials for people in the rehabilitation counseling profession. They also bring vocational services for Washington workers in line with industry best practices.

All other sections of the rule, including those that refine and clarify how providers deliver and report on services, how audits are conducted and how providers bill the department, will become effective June 1, 2001.

The department is planning workshops later this year to help providers understand the new qualifications and provider application process.

For additional information about the vocational services rule, contact Blake Maresh at 360-902-6564.

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For media information, contact: 
L&I Public Affairs at 360-902-5400 or publicaffairs@lni.wa.gov

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