Employee Assistance Programs: Can They Combat Addiction

There are two strongly opposing views out there when it comes to assisting personnel with “personal problems.”  One school of thought says that stress, upsets, emotional challenges or other difficulties have no place in the workplace.  The other rightfully recognizes the contributions of the working environment (both in creating that stress in the first place and in assisting in the emotional well-being of employees).

What if there is a way where the two schools can work together?  A place where human beings are not treated like robots, but rather given the tools to succeed, while at the same time performing more efficiently at work as a result?

That place can exist.  That’s where Employee Assistance Programs come in.

Start of EAP’s

Shortly after the start of Alcoholics Anonymous in 1939, workers began to share their stories of success with fellow employees. They managed their addiction and wanted others to experience it as well.

On the heels of the AA, businesses began to see that such programs increased worker productivity, some even going so far as to provide AA programs in the workplace or promoting their program to their workforce.

In 1970, the federal government got involved, through the creation of the National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse (NIAAA).  They sought to encourage treatment of alcoholism and gave states grant money to hire and train EAP specialists.

As time went on, EAP’s expanded to include assisting companies with employee access to effective medical and emotional care for such conditions or events as addiction, disabilities, natural disasters, workplace violence, and more.

EAP’s Today

While as few as 5% of employees have access to an Employee Assistance Program in the United States today, those numbers are growing.  With a professional network, periodic journal, and start-up resources, the International Employee Assistance Professionals Associate (EAPA) is the go-to online resource for understanding EAP’s and getting a program off the ground in your business or community.

EAP’s include such benefits as:

  • Confidential reporting and access to care
  • Quick, even immediate and sometimes 24/7 access to assistance
  • Professional assistance in health management for many types of conditions
  • Customization to the needs/stressors of particular working environments

Cost and ROI

Investing in employee wellness pays, big time: by some estimates for every dollar you invest in an EAP, employers generally save anywhere from $10-26.

The cost to employers for an EAP program is generally just $18-40 per employee.

The return on investment comes from both increased productivity from health and wellness, but also employee longevity and loyalty (which are more difficult to quantify).

People like to feel valued, and investing in their wellness is a demonstration of your personal care and values as an employer.

Potential for Combatting Addiction

Addiction plagues the American workforce.  Fueled largely by what has been called an “opiate epidemic,” addiction is on the rise in the United States and costs an estimated $700 billion dollars each year in related crime, lost work productivity, and healthcare, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

Insurance plans cover treatment and many effective rehabilitation tools and programs exist.  Addiction has a comparable success rate of long-term management to other chronic diseases such as asthma, hypertension or Type II diabetes—all diseases which can be greatly benefited by an in-house Employee Assistance Programs.

Setting up an EAP can be quick and inexpensive.  What’s more, creating a positive working environment, with successful, happy employees who feel well-cared for, can translate into direct improvement in your company bottom line.

That’s the financial ROI.  Of course, the real ROI is you making a difference and saving a life.

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