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


Three Summits were held in Montana in 2008: on April 20-21 in Billings, April 22-23 in Great Falls, and April 24-25 in Missoula. Approximately 70 people attended each one.

The series was hosted by the Governor's Labor-Management Advisory Council on Workers' Compensation, and the lieutenant governor kicked off each Summit by video. The Summit was planned by a committee that included people from the Montana Department of Labor & Industries, the Montana State Fund, Liberty Northwest, the Laborers' Union, the AFL-CIO, Montana Health Systems, the Sisters of Charity Leavenworth Health System, the Montana State Building Contractors Association, Sun Mountain Sports, the president of the Rehabilitation Association of Montana, and the National Federation of Independent Business.

The events were very highly rated by attendees. More than 90% agreed that the event was well worth their time and they believe it will bear fruit in the future. More than 70% of all attendees signed up to participate in follow-up activities. The Summit planning committee is now planning those next steps.

Despite Montana's small population, few of the people who attended the Summits had known each other before the event -- yet all play important roles in the stay-at-work and return-to-work process in their communities. An estimated half of the workforce of Montana will be touched by the people who participated in the Montana Summits, according to Jerry Keck, head of the Montana State Division of Employment Relations whose staff managed the operational planning for the Summits.

The three premier sponsors of the Montana Summits were the Montana State Fund, Liberty Northwest, and the Montana State Department of Labor & Industry.

There were sixteen other state sponsors, including the Montana Contractors Compensation Fund; Northwestern Energy; PPL Montana; Community Medical Center; I-Med; US Bank; First Interstate Bank; Midland Claims Service; Swanson Leavitt Insurance; Western States Insurance, Payne Financial Group; Genex; Corvel; Garlington, Lohn, & Robinson; Halverson, Sheahy & Plath; and Browning, Kaleczyc, Berry and Hoven.

The 60 Summits Project's participation was made possible in part by its charter sponsors, Prudential Financial and Webility Corporation.

History of the Montana Summits:

Dr. Jennifer Christian introduced the new ACOEM work disability guideline and The 60 Summits Project to Montanans when she gave the keynote address at the Governor's Health, Safety & Workers' Compensation Conference in October 2007. She returned to Montana in November at the invitation of the Montana Department of Labor & Industry to give a similar presentation to the Montana Labor Management Advisory Council on Workers Compensation (LMAC) and the Montana State Fund. On January 8, the LMAC decided that Montana would hold three Summits in April 2008 in conjunction with The 60 Summits Project. The LMAC served as the lead sponsor, along with the State of Montana, the Montana State Fund, the Montana Building Contractors Association and the Sisters of Charity Leavenworth Health System and others. A broad-based Summit Planning Committee was established. Three members of the Labor-Management Advisory Council were on that Committee.

Out of concern for business owners, clinicians and others for whom being away from their offices an entire day might pose a hardship, the Summit events were divided into two half-day sessions, the first of which began in the late afternoon. The second session resumed the next morning and concluded after lunch. In each city, the eight multi-stakeholder workgroups were facilitated by workers' compensation and labor mediators who had received additional training from The 60 Summits Project staff.

Following the Summits, a multi-stakeholder organization called WorkSafeMT emerged. For information about WorkSafeMT and its efforts to reduce injury, illness and death in Montana workplaces through workplace programs and assistance, please contact the staff:

Georgiana Kochman - Executive Director -

Jason Swant - Stay at Work / Return to Work Specialist -

For more information about the WorkSafeMT Foundation and its efforts to make Montana safer for all workers, contact the following board members:

Carl Kochman
Foundation Chair

Marilyn Ryan
Foundation Vice-Chair

Frank Gonzalez
Foundation Treasurer

Casey Kyler-West
Foundation Secretary

Additional information is on DLI's website and on WorkSafeMT's website:

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