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Employee assistance programs

June 10, 2008 - 7:30am
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Employee assistance programs

Employee assistance programs (EAPs) are one of the most effective ways to deal with alcohol and other drug problems in the workplace. They can enhance the work climate of an organization and promote the health and well-being of everyone involved. EAPs are usually multifaceted programs designed to assist employees with personal problems that affect their job performance. Although some EAPs focus primarily on alcohol and other drug problems, most EAPs address a wide range of employee problems such as stress, marital difficulties, financial trouble, and legal problems.

Most EAPs offer a range of services: employee education (on-site or off-site), individual and organizational assessment, counseling, and referrals to treatment. EAPs can also train supervisors for your program. In general, the more comprehensive the services, the more the EAP provider will charge for them.

Types and costs of EAPs

EAPs come in a variety of shapes and sizes and the cost will vary accordingly. Factors include the types of services provided, the number of employees, the type of industry, regulatory requirements, drug testing policy, location, and family coverage.

Types of EAPS

  • Internal/in-house programs
    These are most often found in large companies with substantial resources. The EAP staff is employed by the organization and works on-site with employees.
  • Fixed-fee contracts
    Employers contract directly with an EAP provider for a variety of services, e.g., counseling, employee assessment, and educational programs. Fees are usually based on the number of employees and remain the same regardless of how many employees use the EAP.
  • Fee-for-service contracts
    Employers contract directly with an EAP provider, but pay only when employees use the services. Because this system requires employers to make individual referrals (rather than employees self-referring), care must be taken to protect employee confidentiality.
  • Consortia
    An EAP consortium generally consists of smaller employers who join together to contract with an EAP service provider. The consortium approach helps to lower the cost per employee.
  • Peer-based programs
    Less common than conventional EAPs, peer- or coworker-based EAPs give education and training, assistance to troubled employees, and referrals -- all through peers and coworkers. This type of program requires considerable education and training for employees.

Benefits of EAPs

Employee assistance programs offer a variety of benefits:

  • They can assist with policy development, employee education, and supervisor training.
  • They can take the pressure off supervisors and managers, who feel responsible when employees' personal problems affect job performance.
  • They offer an alternative to firing, thereby saving the costs of recruiting, rehiring, and retraining.
  • They offer access to treatment for employees with problems that affect their job performance.
  • They have been linked to decreases in accidents, Workers' Compensation claims, absenteeism, health benefit utilization, and turnover rates.
  • They can assist employers in complying with drug-free workplace laws.

Finding a qualified EAP provider

EAP professional associations

The first step in implementing an EAP is to find a qualified service provider. Currently there are no national licensure programs for EAP providers, although several states are considering such programs. Two professional associations, the Employee Assistance Professionals Association (EAPA) and the Employee Assistance Society of North America (EASNA), have developed certification procedures for EAP providers. The Certified Employee Assistance Professional (CEAP) credential indicates satisfactory knowledge about addictions, intervention, and related skills. For a fee, EAPA and EASNA can also provide directories of EAP providers by area or region.

A variety of options are available for identifying EAP services. These options include contacting organizations that describe themselves as EAPs and contacting other sources of health care. Consider the following possibilities:

  • Join with other employers and contract with an EAP provider.
  • Consult the Yellow Pages (look under "employee assistance programs" or "drug abuse information and treatment centers"), contact your chamber of commerce or trade association, or call CSAP's Workplace Helpline at 1-800-WORKPLACE.
  • Call local hospitals and ask about available EAP services.
  • Contact a health maintenance organization (HMO) that provides alcohol and other drug abuse treatment services and ask about EAP possibilities.
  • Contact a local mental health or substance abuse professional in private practice and negotiate a contract for EAP services.
  • Inquire if insurance carriers cover EAP services or can help to identify local or regional EAP providers.
  • Talk with other employers who have successful EAPs.

Questions to Ask

Not every EAP will be right for every organization. To determine whether or not a particular EAP will be able to meet your specific needs, ask the EAP provider the following questions:

  • Do the staff members who will be assigned to my organization hold the CEAP credential?
  • Do members of your staff belong to a professional EAP association?
  • What is the education level of each member of your staff?
  • Do you have references that we can contact?
  • Do you provide on-site employee education and supervisor training services?
  • What cost/fee programs do you offer?
  • Will you do on-site visits?
  • Are you able to conduct a needs assessment of our organization?
  • What types of counseling services are available to employees?
  • How many sessions?
  • How easy will it be for employees to use the EAP?
  • Where and how often is the EAP available to employees?
  • To which programs and services do you make referrals-and why?
  • Does the EAP have a system for evaluating the effectiveness of the program?


The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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