Propagating the new work disability paradigm for disability benefits & workers' comp systems

New Mexico

Action Group - Current Status

New Mexico's Action Group, the New Mexico At Work Partnership, came together in May 2009, almost two years after their Summit had been held. Co-chaired by Kathy Diaz the Food Industry Self Insurance Fund of New Mexico and Dr. Denece Kesler from the University of New Mexico, it is an informal group of about 50 members whose purpose is to "change the hearts and minds of employers and healthcare providers and get all the stakeholders to work together pleasantly and voluntarily towards the same goal -- so that better SAW/RTW outcomes are a natural and more frequent occurrence." Members of the group have held a series of educational sessions on SAW/RTW for employers in rural areas; developed and distributed a packet of materials (letters, brochures) for employers to use when an employee is injured; held a recruiting session at the state's annual Workers' Compensation Association conference; and are getting underway a collaborative initiative with the University of New Mexico to offer training to doctors across the state.

To find out more or to get involved, contact Kathy Diaz at

History and Summit Summary

The New Mexico Return-to-Work Summit was held September 7, 2006 in Albuquerque.  It was presented by the Food Industry Self Insurance Fund of New Mexico (FISIF - in cooperation with the New Mexico Workers' Compensation Administration (

Kathy Diaz, PhD., Administrator of FISIF, was the first one to conceive of using multi-stakeholder workshops to teach people about the new work disability prevention paradigm and give them an opportunity to make plans for how to modify their current practices because of it.  Kathy had received an advance copy of the ACOEM report on Preventing Needless Work Disability by Helping People Stay Employed because Dr. Jennifer Christian and she had worked together on a previous project.  Upon reading the ACOEM report, she immediately saw the benefit of gathering all the stakeholders together in one room to listen to Dr. Christian explain the basic ideas of the new paradigm, and then sit side by side to discuss how to implement ACOEM's recommendations.  Thus, the core idea of The 60 Summits Project was born!

The New Mexico summit focused exclusively on workers' compensation.  There were about 75 attendees from a variety of professions and work settings, primarily healthcare providers (there were at least 7 physicians and a chiropractor), business owners, and workers' comp claims handlers.  The diversity of this group made for powerful discussions.  For example, the chief judge of the workers' compensation court sat at a table with 3 restaurant managers and a physician who specializes in independent medical examinations.

People became caught up in the positive spirit of the day.  For example, a healthcare provider who initially came with the obvious primary intent of marketing his services ended up as the very enthusiastic facilitator and spokesperson for a small group that made practical suggestions for improving the stay-at-work and return-to-work process.

The program began with a brief welcome address by the head of the New Mexico Workers' Compensation Administration (WCA), at that time Alan Varela.  He announced that before the Summit had even occurred, his department had already made a change in their program: they would be modifying their return to work program to include the concept of stay at work.  Next came a keynote presentation by Dr. Christian.

The main event of the meeting, however, occurred in small group sessions.  Attendees divided up into 16 multi-stakeholder groups; each was assigned a different recommendations from the ACOEM report.  They were asked to discuss the recommendations with one another and brainstorm ways to effectively implement them in New Mexico.  As the small groups presented their findings, common themes appeared that were obvious grounds for action going forward.

Next came a panel presentation.  The four panelists were: (a) a physician, the regional medical director for Concentra, (b) a regulator, the Assistant Administrator of the WCA, (c) an employer, the owner of several restaurants and (d) a payer, the claims manager from Builders Trust, the largest self-insurance fund in New Mexico.

The summit concluded with a general session in which it became clear that the group had arrived at some consensus agreements.  They are summarized in the Report of the Summit, which also includes an account by Kathy Diaz with advice to other Summit planners: download the report.

Summit Sequel

The New Mexico Workers' Compensation Administration did modify their guidance for employers to include the concept of stay at work.  See the new flyer for employers entitled Stay at Work / Return to Work: download the flyer.

back to jurisdiction list