Throughout time, employees struggling with addiction and other mental health issues have been unfairly targeted and mistreated by employers. But as the discussion around these issues becomes more informed and industries understand it is not a sign of weakness or a moral flaw, employers, unions, and other work-based resources like EAPs are becoming more commonly available both in the U.S. and around the world. Aside from creating a supportive and nurturing workplace that bodes well to productivity, employers have a responsibility to provide services to those who are struggling with these issues.
Employee Assistance Programs
The rise of Employee Assistance Programs, or EAPs for short, has spread across federal, state, and local government jobs and is now more commonly available in the private sector. Although they’re not new in concept, modern EAPs are now more focused on employees’ health and mental wellbeing than ever before, and they’ve come a long way from simply sending a worker to a quick psychological assessment before bringing them back into the field.
In addition to the family and workplace counseling they’re often known to provide, EAPs sometimes cover short-term and outpatient treatment for issues ranging from substance abuse and addiction to anxiety and trauma. Although their roles are still technically to assist in resolving issues that are affecting the employees’ ability to work, they’ve come a long way from the days in which employers believed that their workers would be able to leave their “personal issues” at home.
Many EAPs help organize health fairs, implement wellness programs to improve employee self-care, and educate their employees about their rights through the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 and Family Medical Leave of Absence (FMLA). The management of EAPs varies from business to business, but many EAP professionals are Licensed Clinical Social Workers or have a background in counseling. Their experience and primary role make them a valuable resource for anyone struggling with substance abuse or mental health issues.
In addition to EAPs, some of the largest proponents of improved mental health and appropriate treatment for the workforce have been labor unions. Seeing as it is within their realm of responsibility to take care of their members, unions have started to make a shift from sweeping these issues under the rug to bringing them to the forefront. Like the EAPs, many unions now have drug and alcohol programs, and many even offer peer advocacy programs to educate their members about common addiction and mental health issues along with helping to identify and find appropriate treatment.
In the Long Beach area, for example, the ILWU-PMA offers the Alcohol and Drug Recovery Program, or ADRP. The ADRP provides its members with counseling and resources to help them find treatment and support them throughout the recovery process. ILWU members, many of whom find themselves injured in the workplace and develop a dependence on prescription pills, or are struggling with other issues, have found the ADRP program to be extremely supportive and beneficial for them as they go through treatment.
At Roots Through Recovery, we understand the challenges that addiction and mental health issues can create in one’s life, both personally and professionally. That’s why one of our goals is to help people get their lives back on track, regardless of what their journey has been thus far. We regularly work with EAPs and unions to help them provide better care for their employees, and we are encouraged by the current trend of incorporating more whole-person wellness programs in the workplace.
Although not every employer or industry is required to offer coverage for substance abuse and other mental health issues, it can certainly be worth investigating what options and benefits are available to you should you decide to explore support beyond what is offered by your employer.