Most employers now believe Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) are important elements in their total compensation and benefits offerings.  They know the equation:  by helping employees identify and solve personal concerns, EAPs create the opportunity for employees to focus and perform at their highest levels.  The return for employers is proven time and again by staff who are more engaged and work harder to achieve organizational goals.

However, selecting an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) can be a complicated process.  EAP service delivery models vary greatly as do the depth, quality and comprehensiveness of clinical, management consultation and training services offered.  EAP “parent organizations” are also disparate; health plans, life insurance companies, workers compensation and even payroll services now offer EAPs, although usually with limited benefits.  While some large employers choose to offer in-house EAPs, most organizations contract with external providers and offer a broad range of professional and confidential EAP services, from brief assessment and referral models to comprehensive early intervention, counseling, crisis management, education and wellness programming.

Below are some questions to consider when choosing an EAP:

  • Does the EAP provide easy access with 24-hour response?
  • Are employees and family members able to participate in confidential, professional, thorough assessments and face-to-face counseling services with skilled, licensed clinicians?
  • If specialized or ongoing care is indicated, do employees receive well-matched referrals to treatment or community resources?
  • Does the EAP offer expert Drug Free Workplace Programs such as DOT/ SAP assessments, management support and mandated supervisory referrals ?
  • Is there significant follow-up to assure employee satisfaction, compliance and best outcomes?
  • Is the EAP skilled assisting leadership prevent workplace violence and responsive when there is a need for crisis intervention, de-escalation or post-traumatic event management?
  • If a crisis occurs at the workplace, are professional and unlimited crisis intervention services provided?
  • Does the EAP offer FREE and targeted promotion to heighten EAP awareness and utilization, including outreach to engage employees with the most severe problems (many with devastating and costly substance abuse and mental health issues)?
  • Are unlimited EAP promotional materials and employee orientations included?
  • Are on-site services such as employee education, management training, mediation and organizational development core elements of the EAP offering?
  • Is the EAP “all-inclusive”?  A high quality EAP should be comprehensive and not charge extra for management referrals, strong utilization rates, crisis debriefings, EAP orientation or supervisory training programs; these items should be included in the quoted rate.

Selecting an EAP begins, first, with understanding your organizational needs and how an EAP can help you meet them.  Be aware of choosing an EAP that is “free” or “embedded” in another benefit product. This may seem like an economic option, but may not be the best value or quality for your organization or employees. A great EAP should be highly promoted, well utilized by employees and families, and the “go to” resource for employers who want results.

This article was contributed by Melissa Fabrikant, LCSW, CIRS – Director of Project Management from Managed Care Concepts EAP