A number of area employers and workplaces have employee assistance programs to help staffers navigate through personal issues that might effect job performance.

Substance addiction, family breakups and financial stress are a few of the issues that can flare up in an employee's personal life that could adversely effect work performance.

That is where employee assistance programs come into play to help workers navigate through their issues. Several local firms use employee assistance programs to help workers manage their work responsibilities while coping with personal problems.

"I think employers realize that can impact on the overall work performance," said John Aller, executive director of Stark County Mental Health and Addiction Recovery Board. "What they are really offering is a referral source where to get these services."

One local group that handles employee assistance program chores is Mercy Medical Concern EAP, an affiliate of Mercy Medical Center.

"We are not just a department of Mercy (Medical Center)," said Gail Snyder, manager of the Jackson Township office of Mercy Medical Concern EAP. "We also are a counseling service and sell our services to area businesses, organizations and governments. Everyone here right now is a licensed professional clinical counselor."

The state licensing body is the Counselor, Social Worker and Marriage & Family Therapist Board.

"It is very effective," Snyder said. "There are quite a few studies that show if employees use our services, it results in decreased use of health care benefits, improved employee satisfaction and improved productivity."

An employee assistance program is a work-based service that provides assistance to workers coping with personal problems that could impact their job performance. EAPs can be traced to the 1930s, and were formed out of efforts to cope with occupational alcoholism.

"A really good employee assistance program provides for a wide variety of services," said Marcas Miles, senior director of marketing communications and employer engagement for Employers Health. "They are not just meant for mental health issues. They are meant for life issues."

As an example, some employees may be coping with family matters, such as an aging parent. The employee assistance program could assist with locating a nursing home or a home-care provider.

"The aging parent is a huge issue in the workforce," Miles said. "It creates so much stress and financial hardship."

Employers Health is a Jackson Township-based professional benefits membership organization comprised a several area employers. Employers Health refers much of the EAP work to a ComPsych, Chicago company.

"I would say in the last three or five years we have seen more employers actually deciding to tackle the issue of mental health in the workplace," Miles said.

However, he added, a low number of employees take advantage of the employee assistance program.

"It is still only 4 to 7 percent," Miles said. "There is a lot of stigma around mental health issues."

And likewise, labor organizations are addressing the matter of employee assistance.

"Lately I have been dealing with drugs and alcohol," said Chet Warren, a volunteer with the United Steelworkers Local 1123. "It is getting pretty bad. I find out what the problem is and get them the proper help. I have been using more Glenbeigh."

Glenbeigh is a local substance abuse treatment program affiliated with Cleveland Clinic.

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