How to make EAPs and mental health benefits work

As more companies try to prioritize mental health care for a severely burnt-out workforce, many employers are still falling short.

About half of employers have no formal mental health benefits plan in 2022, according to a Willis Towers Watson survey, and employee assistance programs remain underutilized — in fact, national averages for utilization are less than 6%. And yet, 46% of American workers admitted to having difficulties with Mental Health problems, according to insurance company The Standard.

Where did employers go wrong? During EBN’s Workplace Strategies Agenda, San Francisco Bay Area-based clinical psychologist and consultant India Gomez and John Troutman, national director of marketing for EAP provider Mazzitti & Sullivan EAP Services, revealed the measures companies can take to ensure their EAPs are accessible and support employees’ mental health care journeys.

Read more: To attract top talent – and keep them happy – practice “the art of alignment”

And that starts with dismantling the stigma around mental health struggles that permeates the world of work.

“No single benefit solves everything,” Troutman said. “But when leaders share their own experiences, it breaks down the barriers that, to some degree, will always be there with mental health.”

For Troutman, committed leadership and transparency are essential to any mental health benefit plan or EAP. Leaders should not only be trained on how to discuss sensitive topics or concerns with their team members, but on how to share their personal struggles and even their paths to care.

As Troutman pointed out, employees are much more likely to trust an EAP if they know someone in the company who has successfully accessed it. Employees will also be more attracted to EAPs if they are designed with them in mind. For example, Troutman recalled a client who recently hired workers from the Amish population, and rather than keeping telehealth as the main point of access, Troutman’s team worked to increase the number of physical clinics in the network. of the employer.

Read more: HR managers are more exhausted than ever. Who supports them?

To further standardize it, Gomez noted that employers can offer EAPs that also expand on different aspects of mental health care, addressing topics such as caregiving, personal development, stress management and self-actualization. It helps normalize mental health help as another way people can take care of themselves, rather than a character flaw, Gomez explained.

“I really encourage clients to consider mental health care as well as physical health care as part of wellness,” she said. “You don’t have to be sick, and you don’t have to be in crisis to deal with these things.”

Both Gomez and Troutman agreed that EAPs can serve as powerful introductions to mental health care if done right — or it can feel like a disappointment, especially if that employee needs long-term care.

Read more: How to Destigmatize ADHD in the Workplace to Improve Productivity

“How to transition people into more adequate long-term care and help them navigate systems of care — that’s something that seems to be missing at a systemic level,” Gomez said. “There are all these barriers to care. And that might also be something that EAP companies and employers are thinking about, and it’s not just about the clinician.

When Troutman works with employers on their EAPs, one of the first things his company establishes is that every mental health care provider offered through the EAP is also covered by company health plans. When an employee does not have health insurance, the Troutman team will contact the employer and, without revealing the identity of the employee, ask if the employer would be willing to make a financial contribution. “Pretty much every time, employers are willing to contribute or cover those extra sessions because they’re genuinely interested in that person’s success as well,” he said.

Gomez and Troutman believe that properly supported EAPs have the potential to jump-start mental health care for workers who may not know where to start or what resources are available to them. But employers must create EAPs with intent and transparency.

“EAP vendors can support them at the initial point of contact throughout these covered sessions,” Troutman said. “They can help them meet all the challenges that we will face. »

About Evelyn C. Heim

Check Also

Unions rally for ‘deal’ on state health benefits

TRENTON – René Demuynck is rather optimistic. As hundreds of public union workers dressed in …