Business: From Stress To Substance Abuse, New Partnership Brings Help

By: Alan Pollock

Topics: Business , Social services

CHATHAM It's a workplace truism: stress in an employee's home life leads to stress on the job. Sometimes those stressors are minor, and it helps to be able to share them with a sympathetic listener. Sometimes the stress comes from big problems like a health crisis, relationship troubles or addiction.

A new partnership between the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce and Rogers and Gray Insurance is offering an affordable, confidential lifeline to Cape Codders in the form of a phone-based Employee Assistance Program, or EAP. Any business on Cape Cod can sign up, whether or not it's a chamber member, and the cost is just $9.50 per employee per year.

Once enrolled, an employee can access the program using a 24/7 telephone number or via the website, speaking to a counselor who specializes in the particular problem being experienced. The benefits apply to any member of the employee's household, including family members and roommates.

“It's very holistic,” Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce CEO Wendy Northcross said. EAPs help participants cope with money problems, alcohol and drug addiction, managing stress, anxiety or anger, and communication breakdowns at work or at home. Working on the phone, by video chat or in person, counselors provide more than just a sounding board. If a subscriber needs more help after three consultations, the EAP worker will offer to make referrals to local experts who might be covered by the subscriber's insurance plan.

The program is part of the business community's reaction to the opiate crisis on Cape Cod, Northcross said. EAPs can be an easy, non-threatening way for people to begin the discussion about addiction, providing direct advice to individual families in need, and they also provide a broad range of help for all kinds of problems. Northcross and other business leaders have had experience with EAPs offered through larger companies and said they tend to be well utilized. But for small business employees, it can be a new idea.

“The challenge is getting people to know what an EAP is,” she said. Whether it's finding ways to cope with an unexpected financial challenge or just taking steps to improve family and workplace harmony, it can be an excellent resource. “If your kids are driving you crazy, you can call the EAP,” Northcross said.

After speaking with a number of providers, the chamber opted to work with Rogers and Gray Insurance, which offers EAP services from Virginia-based Diamond Healthcare. In addition to EAP services for employees and household members, the company is a resource for company managers and human resources providers and can even provide critical incident consultations and services in the event of an emergency.

A series of meetings are being held around Cape Cod to answer questions about the program. On the Lower Cape, sessions will be held at 3 p.m. on Jan. 28, Feb. 16, March 2, March 23 and April 18 at the Chatham Community Center. The goal is to encourage as many employers as possible to sign up for the program.

“This is a significant discount,” Northcross said. The $9.50 per-employee cost is annual, not monthly, about a quarter what it would cost for an employer to purchase coverage directly.

To learn more about the program, employers can visit www.WhyCapeCod.org/Reach-eap.