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Evaluate these areas when choosing an EAP
There are many factors to consider when choosing a provider for your Employee Assistance Program (EAP), according to experts interviewed by Hospice Management Advisor. Geographical coverage was most important to Covenant Hospice, a Pensacola, FL-based hospice with almost 900 employees in 12 offices across north Florida and southern Alabama.
If the EAP services are not easy and convenient for employees to use, they won't view the service as a true benefit and won't use it, says Pat Holtman, director of human resources at Covenant Hospice.
In addition to finding an EAP provider that is geographically compatible with hospice employees, it is also important to find one that can provide a full range of services that address family issues, mental health issues such as depression or anxiety, financial issues, addiction problems, and workplace issues. The EAP program chosen by Covenant Hospice is provided by the mental health division of a large health system in the area.
"They have professionals in all areas in which our employees are located, and if a special service is needed that they don't provide on staff, they know the areas and can make appropriate referrals," she says. "The use of licensed professionals who know how to protect our employees' confidentiality while counseling them was a requirement for us."
Hospices in urban areas often have a wider range of choices when searching for an EAP. Sherry Little, executive director of Home Hospice of Grayson County in Sherman, TX, says, "We really only have one EAP provider in our area, but we've been pleased with the service they provide. In fact, we'd probably choose them to provide the service even if there were other options."
Easy access to the provider, the same people handling hospice employee calls, and good communication between the provider and hospice management are a few of the reasons the relationship between her hospice and the EAP provider works well, says Little.
5 things to consider
Once you are sure that the EAP provider can provide easy access, evaluate the following:
Consistent contact person.
Rainbow Hospice in Parkridge, IL, relies upon Joel Gratch, LCSW, as their EAP provider. Gratch is on the staff of a local adult inpatient psychiatric hospital but serves as a consulting therapist to the hospice for EAP services. "Because I'm a solo practitioner, everyone at Rainbow Hospice contacts me," Gratch explains. "But even if you are working with a larger EAP provider, be sure to ask for one person to serve as the main point of contact."
While Covenant Hospice chose a larger organization with multiple offices and contacts in a wide geographic range and Home Hospice of Grayson County relies upon a smaller organization with two licensed psychologists. However, both agencies have a central point of contact so employees make their initial contact with someone who knows the hospice. "Because our employees are located throughout such a wide area, the initial contact person will most likely refer them to a counselor in their area," explains Holtman.
a.central, consistent contact person allows proper follow-up to ensure that all employees receive the services they need, she says.
Familiarity with hospice.
"An EAP provider must understand the structure of the hospice organization and the different types of work each employee might do," suggests Gratch. "Even if the EAP provider specializes in healthcare, be sure the provider understands the difference between curative treatment and palliative care."
This distinction is an important one that all counselors might not take into account when working with hospice employees, he explains. "Many hospice employees have difficulty talking with people outside the hospice about their work," says Gratch. "I've had employees tell me that most people think that their work focuses on death, not on the real goal of helping people live their remaining life in the fullest, most comfortable way possible."
Knowledge of other resources.
"Know the provider's strengths and limitations and be sure he or she has a referral network to use to get the proper assistance for your employees," recommends Gratch. "For instance, I'm a generalist who can help people identify the reasons for their personal or work issues."
If the reasons for those problems require financial or credit advice, substance abuse counseling, or other specialized services, Gratch has a network of professionals to whom he can refer the employee. "Your EAP provider's network needs to be large enough to handle geographic and insurance requirements to improve your employee's ease of access," he adds.
a.though the primary reason for offering an EAP with an outside firm is to provide complete privacy to employees, the EAP provider should send regular reports to the hospice to keep them informed of utilization, says Little.
By tracking utilization and the types of issues for which employees are seeking help, the hospice manager can evaluate the value of the EAP. Reports that identify employees as numbers maintain confidentiality but still provide important information to the hospice, she adds. If utilization drops for a time, the hospice administrators might want to evaluate communications with employees about the inclusion of EAP as a benefit, or the administrator might need to remind managers and supervisors that the EAP is a resource they can recommend to employees, she adds.
Resource for hospice.
In addition to counseling employees who seek EAP services, some providers also can be resources for inservice education, can facilitate meetings to discuss difficult issues, or can offer advice on personnel issues to managers. "We don't violate our employees' privacy, but we will ask our EAP provider for advice on how to handle some situations," says Little. For example, if hospice managers are trying to determine the best way to handle a tough situation, the EAP provider can suggest different options to address the problem, she says.
Options considered by the hospice might include a change in job responsibilities, additional counseling, or extra training, and the EAP provider can give feedback for what might work best or might offer ideas hospice management did not consider, she explains. Having an outside consultant ensures that all options are considered in difficult situations, she adds.
For more information about Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), contact:
Pat Holtman, Director of Human Resources, Covenant Hospice, 5041 N. Twelth Ave., Pensacola, FL 32504. Telephone: (850) 433-2155. E-mail: email@example.com.
Sherry Little, Executive Director, Home Hospice of Grayson County, 505 W. Center St., Sherman, TX 75090-7827. Telephone: (903) 868-9315. E-mail: Sherry.Little@homehospice.org.