Illinois Department of Human Services and the American Federation of State Employees

Collaborative problem solving: Bringing management and labor together

A nationwide study by the Bureau of Labor revealed that 4.6 percent of the nation's 2.6 million nurses and nurses' aides suffered sprains, fractures, bruises and cuts on the job. Then, a brutal attack of a nurse at a state mental health and development facility in Peoria, Ill., made officials at the Illinois Department of Human Services even more aware of resident attacks on staff members. An investigation and legislative hearing that followed showed the problem to be much more widespread than department officials had previously acknowledged.

As a result, the Illinois Department of Human Services Division of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, and the Illinois Nurses Association sought ways to prevent, reduce and more effectively manage acts of violence and physical altercations by residents of state owned-and-operated mental health facilities. Millennia was engaged to guide the agencies and organizations in a partnership called the Violence Prevention/Safe Environment Project, which piloted a new labor/management model that emphasized team building and collaborative problem solving.

Millennia, drawing on its leadership development and program design expertise, developed an employee involvement model that could be used by labor/management teams to formulate corrective action measures. Facility teams trained and coached by Millennia developed unique approaches and project outcomes. The individuality of each team project demonstrated the team's resourcefulness and commitment to achieving the DHS goal of a safer environment for those who live and work in state-operated facilities.

This collaborative effort helped reduce the number of assault/altercation injuries by 20 percent. Additionally, the cost in worker compensation claims declined by 53 percent, a savings of almost $1 million.