What are EAPs?

An Employee Assistance Program or EAP is a benefit program provided by employers. EAP providers offer a variety of services designed to help you support the mental wellness of your workforce. Some services that EAPs commonly provide include:

  • Short-term counseling
  • Referral to health providers
  • Drug/alcohol misuse assessments
  • Health education material
  • Work-life balance resources
  • Supervisor training
  • Assistance in locating child or elder care
  • Financial coaching
  • Confidential health consultations

Why provide an EAP?

An EAP tells your employees that you care about their total well-being. It provides an externally-managed, incredibly rich wellness resource that your employees can use at any time of day or night. They can be highly customizable depending on the needs of your workforce, and low-cost options are available. Unlike insurance, EAPs typically do not require a co-pay for services. This encourages employees to take the step toward getting the help that they need.

Centura Health: "Why provide one to your employees?"

TRIAD EAP: "EAP Cost Effectiveness"

Peer Assistance Services: "EAP Guidance and Resources"

Raising awareness of EAP benefits

A lot of companies have EAP programs in place, but find that few employees actually use them. This could be because they aren't aware of what benefits they're entitled to or how to go about using their benefits. In some cases, they could feel too embarrassed, ashamed, or uncomfortable to get in touch with an EAP counselor. For help in learning how to talk about workplace wellness and EAPs, visit our Transparency & Language page.

Selecting an insurance plan

According to the Working Well toolkit, research of the most efficacious mental health treatments suggests that your insurance plan should cover all of the following mental health services:

  • Inpatient, residential, crisis stabilization, and/or other 24-hour hospital services
  • Intensive outpatient treatment and/or partial hospitalization
  • Outpatient services like individual and group counseling
  • Medical and/or medication management
  • Case management
  • Psychosocial rehabilitation services
  • Intensive outreach services (like assertive community treatment) for adults and children diagnosed with serious mental health conditions

In addition, we recommend that you make sure that your plan covers inpatient drug/alcohol rehabilitation, medical detox, and outpatient addiction medicine visits.

See The National Business Group of Health's toolkit for mental health benefits strategy for more help.

Ensuring parity in physical and mental health coverage

The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 requires that health insurance plans have the same financial requirements (co-pays and deductibles) and treatment limits (inpatient hospital stay limits, outpatient visit limits) for mental health and substance use treatment as they do for general medical treatment. When you're looking at your health plan, make sure that it complies with parity requirements and demand change if it doesn't.

See the Employer Guide for Compliance with the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act for more help.

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