Workplace Drug Use: Think It’s Not A Problem For You?

If today’s employers are finding that employee engagement is especially low, it may be because some of their employees are high. A new study released this summer by Quest Diagnostics, a provider of diagnostic information services, reveals that workplace drug use is the highest it’s been in more than a decade.

While prescription opioid rates have declined sharply across the nation, the on-the-job use of cocaine, amphetamines and marijuana has risen sharply, especially in certain regions. Here are a few specific findings from the Quest Diagnostics study:

  • Cocaine use has increased for the fifth consecutive year, including double-digit year-over-year increases in Nebraska, Idea, Washington, Nevada, Maryland and Wisconsin.
  • Between 2013 and 2017, methamphetamine use has increased 167% in parts of the Midwest, 160% in parts of the South, 150% in areas of the Northeast and 140% in the Southwest.

If you still think drug use has yet to reach your employees, consider these disturbing stats from the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence:

  • 70% of the estimated 14.8 million Americans who use illegal drugs are employed.
  • Of those 70%, more than 42% admit that their work productivity suffers due to their use.

“The significant drop in opiate use is a promising sign,” said Matt Nieman, General Counsel, Institute for a Drug-Free Workplace. “Yet, the ten-year high rates serves as a stark warning that efforts to prevent substance abuse in the workplace are as important today as ever.”

The Opioid Problem is Not Over

The drop in opioid use doesn’t mean the opioid problem has gone away. Opioid prescriptions have nearly quadrupled since 1999, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While the drugs legitimately help people manage pain, they are also still very addictive. The National Institute on Drug Abuse provides plenty of scary facts to illustrate our point:

  • Roughly 21 to 29% of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them.
  • Between 8 and 12% develop an opioid use disorder.
  • An estimated 4 to 6% who misuse prescription opioids transition to heroin.
  • Every day, more than 115 people in the United States die after overdosing on opioids.

Drug Use is Expensive, Too

These trends aren’t just disturbing on a human level. They’re costing employers – and society at large – a lot of money. Crain’s Detroit Business points out that, in 2013, opioid abuse alone cost businesses $16.3 billion just in disability claims and lowered productivity.

Tess Benham, of the National Safety Council, reminds us there’s also a high cost in absenteeism. Where the average worker misses about ten days per year, those abusing pain medication or using heroin miss an average of 29 days of work per year.

When you consider the combination of lowered productivity, higher health care, substance abuse treatment costs and missed work, you have a total economic burden of $78.5 billion, according to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Curtis S. Florence, who led the research, adds, “And that’s definitely a conservative estimate.”

What Can Employers Do to Help?

Common sense says that employers need to be part of the solution. First, however, they need to admit there’s a problem. In a survey by the National Safety Council, seven in ten employers reported on-the-job drug abuse issues ranging from absenteeism to overdose. Yet, only 24% said it was an issue.

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence  has some clear, practical advice for employers, all centered on encouraging and supporting treatment. Here are some specific ways they say employers can address substance use and abuse in the workplace:

  • Implement a drug-free workplace and other substance abuse policies.
  • Offer health benefits that provide comprehensive coverage for substance use disorders, including aftercare and counseling.
  • Reduce the stigma of getting help through education and communication. You can read more about steps we’ve seen work in this blog on Reducing The Stigma Of Mental Health.
  • Educate employees about the health and productivity hazards of substance abuse through company wellness programs.

While all these policies and programs will help, the NCADD has one strong recommendation. “ “Without question, establishment of an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is the most effective way to address alcohol and drug problems in the workplace,” says the NCADD. “EAPs deal with all kinds of problems and provide short-term counseling, assessment and referrals for employees with alcohol and drug abuse problems.”

At Espyr, we also understand the power of EAPs. But as a leading behavioral health company we’re continuously innovating to find new solutions to behavioral health issues. For example, we’re leading the way with a suite of coaching programs to encourage employees to ask for help when they need it or when traditional counseling isn’t required. We’ve developed innovative new approaches like Spotlight™, a behavioral health coaching and proprietary data analytics platform. Spotlight is able to proactively identify and aid employees (and their dependents) that may need assistance with drug abuse and other healthcare issues. It can more than pay for itself in reduced absenteeism, increased employee engagement, increased employee retention and a reduction in healthcare costs of up to 20%.

Espyr is offering Spotlight with partners such as Fairbanks Employer Services, one of the oldest and most highly regarded alcohol and drug treatment centers in America. With this new marketing partnership, Fairbanks will offer this technology to their portfolio of client companies under the name Fairbanks Spotlight™.

For more information on how Espyr can help you achieve a drug-free work environment, call Espyr at 866-570-3479 or go to


Suicides On The Rise: What Can Employers Do?

Earlier this year, we endured a one-two punch of the suicides of fashion icon Kate Spade and author/TV personality Anthony Bourdain.   As always happens following celebrity suicides, a barrage of TV, news and social media stories followed exploring, in intricate detail,  how they died and what led up to their fateful decisions. Unfortunately, these tragedies – and the ever-present news coverage – often lead to more of the same. In a study published by the International Journal of Epidemiology, media reports of suicides of well-known figures can trigger suicides in viewers and readers. When someone struggling with mental health issues sees that someone with similar issues responded to that suffering by killing themselves,  “It puts death on the table”, says news site Vox.

But these stories can also have a positive effect; they can cause employers concerned about the physical and mental health of their employees to evaluate their healthcare plans and determine if they’re doing enough.

Causes of Suicide

While the cause of suicide is not known, it most often occurs when the stresses of life exceed the coping abilities of someone already suffering from a mental health condition. In these cases, at these moments, stressors and health issues converge to create strong feelings of hopelessness and despair, something that seems impossible to overcome through any other method than death.

Most people who actively manage their mental health conditions go on to engage in life. Regrettably, it’s more common for those conditions to go untreated. Depression is the most common risk factor associated with suicide, and it’s often one that is undiagnosed or untreated. Other risk factors include anxiety, substance abuse, bipolar disorder and a family history of suicide.

Any of the conditions mentioned, especially when unaddressed, increase the risk for suicide.

The Cost of Suicide

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shares the latest statistics on suicide, and it’s not good news. Here are just a few of the startling facts:

  • Since 1999, suicide rates in the U.S. have risen nearly 30%.
  • Almost 45,000 Americans die each year by suicide – about 123 per day.
  • For every documented suicide, there are 25 suicide attempts.
  • Suicide costs the U.S. $69 billion annually in medical costs and work loss.

To make matters worse, since the stigma surrounding suicide leads to underreporting, the CDC estimates these numbers to be higher.

The Employer’s Role

Those employers who currently provide some sort of behavioral health counseling benefit – better yet, a comprehensive Employee Assistance Program (EAP) – are already going in the right direction. Same with school administrators providing a Student Assistant Program (SAP). Their employees (or students) have a place to go when they feel the need to seek help.

More comprehensive EAPs and SAPs, however, don’t stop at basic counseling. Some offer early suicide identification services and 24/7/365 intervention. Others conduct suicide prevention training activities on location or, in the aftermath of a suicide, critical incident trauma responses to help the rest of the community deal with their feelings.

Of course, many people in need don’t seek help. They’re worried about confidentiality, they fear their mental health conditions may jeopardize their employment or they believe “things will just work out.”

At Espyr®, we offer an industry-first Interactive Screening Program (ISP) that provides employees and students with a convenient, anonymous way to connect with a qualified counselor about available service options through their EAP – and address their concerns before they escalate. Here’s how it works:

  1. Employee/Student visits the anonymous ISP website
  2. Takes a brief stress and depression questionnaire
  3. Receives a personal response from an EAP counselor
  4. Exchanges messages with counselor – asks and learns about available services
  5. Gets feedback and encouragement
  6. Requests an appointment or referral

Offered in association with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the program has been especially effective. As one participant put it, “I was finally able to let someone know how badly I was feeling without any judgement.”

If you’d like to learn more about how you can help your employees (or student population) deal with feelings of suicide – or any other behavioral health issue click here.




Health and Wellness: Revealing Trends In Benefits

The numbers don’t lie. The inclusion of new, innovative health and wellness offerings and initiatives as part of a company’s benefits package is increasing dramatically. In a survey by WorldatWork, the leading nonprofit professional association in compensation and total rewards, 900 respondents across the country described some of the ways companies in 2017 are taking better care of their employees than they were in 2016. In this article, we’ll take you through the most impactful changes.

Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) – Up 20%

According to the WorldatWork survey, 80% of the respondents’ companies offered an EAP in 2016. In 2017, that number went up to 96%. This should not come as a surprise. A comprehensive EAP program, implemented correctly, can improve employee retention, reduce absenteeism and help produce a happier, more productive workforce. Increasingly, employers and employees are recognizing the value – even as a recruiting tool. On their 2018 list of ten perks that attract and retain employees, places EAPs just behind Snacks and Coffee, Flexible Work Schedules and Working from Home.

Behavioral Health Plans – Up 17%

Offered by 78% of the surveyed companies in 2016 and 91% in 2017, behavioral health plans and services are quickly becoming the norm. While engagement in these plans has been an issue historically, it’s important to have the resources in place for those who might need them. The other good news? More companies are making efforts to demystify these programs and remove the associated stigma. By making behavioral health part of a company’s culture and involving senior leadership, more and more employees are taking advantage of these services.

Another trend that will help: an increase in coaching vs. counseling. While the best coaches receive training and education comparable to counselors, the idea of coaching is something that is inherently more approachable.

Wellness Incentives – Up 18%

By providing rewards other than wellness itself, incentive programs can be very effective, and have increased in use from 56% in 2016 to 66% in 2017. Incentives could be anything from blue ribbons to free or subsidized health club memberships, often landing somewhere in the middle – cash, gift cards, event tickets and health insurance discounts.Fitness class

When combined with simple, short-term prizes, wellness incentives provide employees with enough motivation to get the wellness ball rolling until they begin to feel the internal benefits of a healthy lifestyle.

Outcomes-Based Wellness Programs – Up 33%

All wellness programs are, of course, outcomes-based in that they hope to achieve better health outcomes for as many employees as possible. Outcomes-based wellness programs, however, are simply incentive-based programs designed to achieve a certain outcome, like not smoking or losing weight.

According to WellSteps, an employee wellness solutions company, an outcomes-based wellness program will increase program participation and effectiveness. A combination of data feedback and healthy activities can encourage desired health behaviors while giving employees many different ways to qualify. If you treat people with respect and don’t force them to participate, WellSteps points out, your employees will love your wellness program and employee morale will get a big boost.

Health Coaching – Up 14%

As mentioned earlier, counseling can still carry a stigma that keeps some people with behavioral health issues from seeking help. Also, people may need advice, direction or just someone to talk to, and don’t have the need for formal counseling. This is where health coaching can help. With more of a positive connotation than counseling, more employees will seek the help they need.

And it’s working. According to the International Coaching Federation, 86% of companies who implement a coaching program feel the ROI was valuable.

Financial Wellness Services – Up 10%

In their 2017 survey on corporate health and well-being, Fidelity Investments® and the National Business Group on Health® revealed 84% of companies now offer financial wellness services, such as access to debt management tools or student loan counseling, an increase from 76% in 2016. As more employers recognize the impact of financial wellness on employee health, a growing percentage of companies are expanding their well-being programs to include employee financial security.$100 bill puzzle

As programs, services and offerings continue to evolve, employers are embracing a broader definition of well-being, one that leads to increased participation and engagement among their workforce – and greater productivity. “Today’s programs take more of a ‘health meets wealth’ approach,” said Adam Stavisky, senior vice president, Fidelity Benefits Consulting. “They reflect a blend of financial, physical and social/emotional programs to provide maximum support for members.”

If you’d like to learn how your company can catch up to the trends in wellness – and improve the happiness and productivity of your workforce – call Espyr at 866-570-3479 or click here.

Work/Life Balance: Is That What Millennials Really Want?

To be a better employer – a better company – it’s important to give your employees everything they need to be better, too. A central concept in that regard is to avoid the cultural pressure of overworking employees, helping to provide a better work/life balance.

The research – and common sense – says that a proper work/life balance will also reap benefits for the company in terms of productivity, longevity and workforce satisfaction. Just look at the results of MetLife’s 16th Annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study:

  • 81% of respondents say having a work/life balance makes them more productive.
  • 79% say a work/life balance makes them a more engaged colleague.

In addition, a new World Services Group study found that among the 1,500 young professionals surveyed, work/life balance was the biggest priority in their professional lives, beating out wealth and leadership opportunities.

Rocks balancing on top of one another

Photo by Matthew Cabret

Today’s workforce is changing. By 2020, according to the Governance Studies at Brookings report How Millennials Could Upend Wall Street and Corporate America,” more than one third of American adults will be Millennials. And by 2025, they will make up 75% of the workforce.

So the real question for today’s employer looking to do right by his or her employees: How to Millennials define work/life balance?

Balance Has Nothing to Do with It

The MetLife study mentioned above provides some insightful analysis. A proper separation between work and life – the paradigm of the previous generation – has been dying for years, they say. Today’s employees, primarily Millennials, no longer seek a balance of work and life but, rather, an integration. They want complete fluidity at work, at home and in every aspect of their lives.

“Think of your life as a symphony.”

The World Services Group study (also mentioned above) reveals that today’s employees see their lives as a whole, of which their career is one valuable part. They like to work hard and be productive, as long as doing so doesn’t interfere with their ability to live a full life. Respondents consistently emphasized the high priority that Millennials place on achieving the flexibility to control meaningful priorities between their work and professional lives.

Finally, Steven Cohen, a partner at, a platform that helps Millennials perform better at work, uses this analogy in talking to his Millennial clients:

“Stop thinking that your life needs to be balanced. Balance implies things need to be equal in order to be successful. Think of your life as a symphony, instead. A great symphony is played with many different types of instruments, each played at different levels of intensity at different times during the performance. Your commitments, just like instruments in a symphony, need to be adjusted to whatever is most important at any point in time. The goal is not to have work/life balance. It’s to have work/life harmony.”

A Closer Look at Their Hyper-Connected World

Ryan Jenkins is a speaker on Millennials and Generation Z, and another partner at In his article in, he says that growing up in a hyper-connected world, where a smart device has never been outside of arm’s reach, has forced Millennials to rethink and redefine work/life balance in very specific ways:

  • The Long Term

Millennials aren’t driven by the thought of working hard for the next 40 years and then retiring. Rather, they want to build a life and career that can withstand the continuous reinventions and pivots that the 21st century will bring, whether they retire early or not at all.

  • Engagement

Millennials view work/life balance as being fully engaged with the task or activity at hand. Work/life balance isn’t about physical time and place; it’s a state of mind (even if they occasionally need help from leaders to turn off the distractions to ensure they can be fully present).

  • Freedom

Millennials want work/life balance to be free and flexible so they can prioritize whatever is most important that day. To them, a more fluid approach ensures less stress.

  • Making It Personal

Millennials want a healthy mix of achieving professional goals and time to pursue personal goals. Again, this is about freedom and flexibility. This could be staying an extra day on a business trip to explore the area or completing work early so they can attend a child’s school function later that day.

What Can Employers Do to Help?

Taking care of employees – both professionally and personally – is at the heart of every Employee Assistance Program (EAP). A customized, comprehensive EAP, like the ones offered by Espyr, can provide all the assistance your employees need – Millennials or not – to achieve their version of a work/life balance.

For example, a good comprehensive EAP will make available a host of work/life seminars on topics such as stress management, team building, coping with change, working with difficult people and maintaining a positive attitude.  A good EAP will also offer a wide variety of other services that allow work/life integration to be possible, including:

  • Legal and Financial Consultation
  • Childcare Information and Referrals
  • Eldercare Services
  • Academic Resources
  • Special Needs Services and Referrals
  • Concierge/Convenience Services

If you’d like to learn more about helping your employees live a more balanced, harmonious life – and improve their work productivity in the process – call Espyr at 866-570-3479 or go to




The importance of mental health in the workplace

A few months ago, Patti Murin, the actress playing Anna in the Broadway show, Frozen, tweeted that she needed to take some time off for mental health reasons.

In her tweet, Murin stated, “I’ve learned that these situations aren’t something to deal with or push through. Anxiety and depression are real diseases that affect many of us. It requires rest and self care to handle every time it becomes more than I can handle in my daily life.”

Mental health conditions are more prevalent than you’d think

Murin was right when she said that mental health issues affect many of us. The fact is that mental health issues are far more common than most people realize. One in five adult Americans – 41 million people – will experience mental health issues in any given year. Someone suffering from depression will miss approximately five missed work days and 11.5 days of reduced productivity every three months. The cost to the US economy is a staggering $51 billion annually in absenteeism and lost productivity and an additional $26 billion in direct costs of treatment.

Millennials, the largest segment of today’s workforce, report higher rates of depression than any other generation, and research indicates that depression is becoming more prevalent among younger women. Women, in fact, are nearly twice as likely as men to suffer from depression.


“If you want a high-performing company, you need resilient, healthy employees.”

Tim Munden, Unilever

Unfortunately, many of those suffering from depression or other mental health issues don’t seek help. Employees often stay quiet due to the stigma of mental illness and concern that co-workers or supervisors will think poorly of them. There is still a perception by many that it’s acceptable and even encouraged to stay home from work if you’re physically ill, but not okay for mental illness. Concerns that having a mental health issue can affect career advancement can, or at least appear to those affected, be very real in some companies. Many with depression think they can just “power through it” and pull themselves together.


How employers can help

Employers have a vested interest in recognizing the importance of employee mental health and many are stepping up to act, as noted by Kari Paul in Workplaces are finally treating mental health as sick days, even on Broadway. “If you want a high-performing company, you need resilient, healthy employees, said Unilever’s chief learning officer, Tim Munden. Unilever is one of many companies like American Express and Prudential who have established comprehensive programs specifically designed to support employee mental health.

What should an employer do? First and foremost, companies need to remove the stigma of mental health. “Studies have shown that [more accepting] workplaces have happier employees with better productivity,” said Michelle Riba, a professor of psychiatry and the associate director of the University of Michigan Depression Center in an interview with Huffington Post.   Awareness and education through frank and open discussions and training is critical in removing mental health stigma, as we’ve reported previously in our blog on Removing the Stigma of Mental Health.

Second, employers need to learn to recognize the signs of depression. Depression can manifest itself in many different ways physically, behaviorally and emotionally. Physically, changes in appetite, aches and pains, changes in sleep habits and feeling extremely tired can all occur. Behaviorally, those with depression may exhibit irritability, restlessness, trouble concentrating or difficulty completing daily routines. Increased alcoholic consumption or reckless behavior can occur. Emotionally, a strong and consistent feeling of sadness, anxiety or hopelessness may be noticed.

Some companies offer wellness classes such as yoga or meditation. Exercise can help by raising endorphin levels. Unilever’s mental health program referenced earlier provides regular employee workshops on sleep, mindfulness and exercise, all of which have been linked to good mental health and psychological wellbeing.

One of the most effective ways to support employees with mental health conditions is taking advantage of your Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Comprehensive EAP programs, such as those offered by Espyr, include information workshops and training for employees and supervisors on mental health. Besides helping employees recognize the symptoms of depression, this training prepares workers and supervisors for when and what actions need to be taken when suicide prevention measures are called for. Furthermore, employees have access to counselors through your EAP who are trained and certified to handle mental health issues such as depression.

If you’d like to know more about mental health programs for your company, call Espyr at 866-570-3479 or go to








How To Reduce Employee Financial Stress And Boost The Bottom Line

For benefits decision makers, employee physical wellness has always taken center stage, first with health insurance, then with proactive wellness programs designed to keep employees healthier and save employers money. Over the last few decades, as stress and behavioral health issues have been shown to take their toll in dramatic ways, emotional wellness has found a foothold in benefits packages.

Today, according to the 2017 Global Benefits Attitudes Survey, financial wellness has been picking up steam as the new priority for employers, with many companies planning to offer or expand upon their current financial wellness programs and services. The survey notes how overall financial satisfaction for employees has taken a big turn for the worse, plunging by 13 percentage points between 2015 and 2017 – from 48% to 35%. But this survey also interviewed employers, learning they are increasingly acknowledging the stresses – and work issues – that arise when employees are constantly worried about their finances or, even worse, being able to make ends meet.

“…we knew financial stress was impacting health and productivity…we didn’t realize how much.”

Impact on the job

There are a number of studies that address how financial stress affects employees and their performance at work. As reported in a survey conducted by Lockton Retirement Services, a benefit brokerage and consultancy firm, employees stressed over finances were more than four times as likely to suffer from fatigue, headaches, depression or other ailments. Even more surprising, they were twice as likely to report poor health overall, leading to more sick days, increased absenteeism and decreased productivity.

“In our work with clients and their employees, we knew financial stress was impacting health and productivity,” said Donn Hess, Lockton’s senior vice president and director of marketing and communications. “But we didn’t realize how much.”

An International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans survey tells the story from the employer’s point of view, citing that four out of five report that their employees’ personal financial issues are impacting their job performance, resulting in:

  • An increase in stress among employees (reported by 76% of employers)
  • Workers’ inability to focus at work (reported by 60%)
  • Absenteeism and tardiness (reported by 34%)

A receptive audience

The best and most comprehensive employee financial wellness programs in the world will only help if employees become engaged. The good news is, according to the PwC 2018 Employee Financial Wellness Survey, they want the help. To them, financial wellness has always been defined in terms of aspirational goals, like freedom from stress/financial worry and being able to make choices to enjoy life, so they’re looking for ways to get to that point.

The PwC survey found, in fact, that more than half of all employees (54%) want to make their own financial decisions, but are looking to have someone validate those decisions. Employees want a financial wellness benefit to come with access to unbiased counselors and help understanding all their options.

Crafting the right solutions

Providing a financial wellness benefit isn’t as simple as offering a personal finance guidebook and hoping for the best. The ideal solutions, based on the results of MetLife’s 16th Annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study, involve providing real experiences that have meaning and value to employees – programs and offerings that support flexibility and empower employees to positively impact their situation.

Employees see their benefits as critical to enriching their work and life. When employers play an active role in their employees’ financial wellness, everyone benefits. The right solutions build confidence for employees, which, the MetLife study found, creates positive results both inside and outside the workplace.

In their 2017 survey on corporate health and well-being, Fidelity Investments® and the National Business Group on Health® revealed 84% of companies now offer financial wellness services such as access to debt management tools or student loan counseling, an increase from 76% in 2016.

When considering a financial wellness program for your company, look for an experienced, dedicated partner, like Espyr. Espyr can help you with financial coaching programs and innovative approaches to financial wellness as part of a customized Employee Assistance Program (EAP).

For more information on behavioral health programs, reducing financial stress and increasing productivity within your company, call Espyr at 866-570-3479 or go to




How Productive Are You When You Can’t Make Ends Meet?

Money, is the leading cause of stress in America and, boy, are we stressed out these days! According to a study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Services, stress, anxiety and depression were at all time highs in 2017.  39% of respondents reported being more stressed than a year ago, while only 19% reported being less stressed. Financial worries (a significant source of stress for 64% of adults) rank higher than work (60%), family responsibilities (47%) and health concerns (46%).

If you’re in HR or running a business, I hope I have your attention because employees stressed due to financial worries are not good for your business.

Millennials seem to be most affected by financially induced stress. According to a study by Northwestern Mutual, an estimated 28% of millennials are experiencing so much stress that it’s affecting their job performance. That’s twice the rate of the general population.

Furthermore, 23% of Millennials say that financial stress makes them physically ill on a weekly or monthly basis compared to just 12% of workers among all age groups.

Jacob Passy in his Market Watch article, Americans are plagued by financial anxiety — and it’s only getting worse, provides thoughtful commentary on what’s driving financial anxiety and how financially driven stress affects demographic groups – gender, age and race – differently.

“The vast majority of respondents believe a person’s mental health impacts their physical health (86%, up from 80% in 2017).” 

There are no magic bullets to relieving financial anxiety and stress, but there are some tried and true steps to take.

  • First on every advice list is to create a budget and stick to it. Unfortunately, studies show that 2/3 of American adults don’t have a budget and many of us fall into the trap of spending more than we make at times. Consumers are not like the US government; we can’t sell debt or print more money in order to spend more than we make.
  • Put away an emergency fund. Of course, this may be easier said than done, but start small. Even a few dollars a week will add up. 69% of U.S. adults have less than $1,000 in savings, while 34% have no savings at all. What happens if you’re in an auto accident or have a health emergency and you have no savings? Talk about stress!

Make savings a way of life. Many financial experts say to pay your self first. In other words, put money into a savings or investment account before you see how much you have for other purposes. Many banks will let you set up an automatic monthly transfer from your checking to your savings account. That’s a great way to force your self to save.

Eliminate debt. Between student loans, car loans, mortgages and credit card debt, some people dig such a deep hold of debt that they may never get out. Getting out of debt, especially credit card debt, can be very therapeutic, not to mention financially rewarding.   According to Meghan Murphy, Vice President of Thought Leadership at Fidelity Investments, Fidelity’s research show that paying off debt has the biggest positive impact on a person’s overall well-being.   Bigger even than exercise.

“If you want to reduce stress, start by paying down your debt.”

 Meghan Murphy, Fidelity Investments

And, maybe one of the most overlooked opportunities for many is to tap into the resources of your EAP. Many EAPs include financial consulting and financial coaching as a free service. Unfortunately, employees often miss this because they aren’t aware that they even have the benefit of free financial advice and coaching.   Employers can help by working with their EAP to market these services better. Ask your EAP for marketing materials to explain the services offered. Your EAP should be willing to set up lunch and learns, webinars and other employee meetings to raise employee awareness.

Financial worries don’t have to be deterrents to productivity at your company. If your EAP is not offering services like financial coaching then call Espyr. With a national network of financial professionals and financial coaches we can help.

Call us at 866-570-3479 or click here.













Five Steps Businesses Need To Be Taking Now To Address The Opioid Crisis

According to the CDC, 115 people die in the US everyday of opioid overdoses. That’s more than from car accidents, gun violence, and most forms of cancers. Opiate related overdoses are now the leading cause of death in Americans under the age of 50.

Though it seems we’re confronted with news about the opioid crisis wherever we turn, the situation isn’t getting any better. In the past year, ER visits for opioid overdose nationally rose nearly 30%.   How does this mounting crisis impact your business and what should you be doing about it?

“…the combination of lower productivity, higher healthcare and substance abuse treatment costs, missed work and other opioid related issues add up to $78.5B….”

The first step in solving a problem is admitting you have one, and here businesses may be missing the boat. In a National Safety Council survey, 39% of employers viewed prescription drug use as a threat to safety and just 24% said it is a problem, even though seven in 10 companies reported issues ranging from absenteeism to overdose. In fact, the combination of lower productivity, higher healthcare and substance abuse treatment costs, missed work and other opioid related issues add up to $78.5B according to the National Center For Injury Prevention and Control.

The situation has gotten so bad for businesses that the Federal Reserve found that employers were finding it difficult to fill open positions, partially due to a skills gap but also because many applicants couldn’t pass a drug test.

There are steps you should be taking at your business to address this crisis. Nick Otto’s article, Opioid Treatment Costing Employers Big identifies three responsibilities that businesses have according to Michael Thompson, president and CEO of the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions

  1. Educate employees about opioid misuse – Currently, only 24% of companies provide training and education to employees in opioid use according to a recent National Safety Council survey. When it comes to educating employees, Thompson says issues to consider include proper storage and disposal of prescription medications, the dangers associated with sharing opioid medication with others, the need to ask questions of their providers if prescribed opioids as well as clarifying a clear path for how employees or their families can seek help and treatment if they are concerned about addiction or dependency.
  2. Employers need to review their programs and policies to better align with the collective opioid agenda. “Programs and policies are being relooked at to ensure appropriate coverage and support, while better defining expectations for both supervisors and employees,” Thompson says. “Employers should set expectations for EAPs, health plans and prescription drug managers to play a more systematic role to identify potential opioid misuse and take actions to help address systemic issues and support employees and their families who have opioid issues.”
  3. Engage with your health plans and PBMs to ensure they do their part. Employers are demanding and now getting more data from their health plan or data warehouse vendor and diving deeper to understand the impact of drugs on their population. Because of this, employers and PBMs are beginning to make progress to reduce the risk of overdose. They’re reducing barriers to medication assisted treatment and limiting the opioid dosage prescribed to individuals. A recent benchmarking survey last year from the Midwest Business Group on Health found most employers indicating that they are changing their pharmacy benefit design by putting restrictions on opioid prescriptions, using prior authorization and quantity limits (as low as a 5-day supply) and more advanced utilization management rules, notes Cheryl Larson, president and CEO of MBGH.
  4. Another step gaining proponents is the use of a segmented and data analytics approach to opioid abuse. Products such as Espyr’s Spotlight™ use data analytics to provide insights that enable managers to identify potential problems proactively. For example, Spotlight could identify the co-existence of conditions closely associated with opioid abuse and act as an early warning system for a potential problem.

Last, your EAP should be an active partner to you in your efforts. David Pawlowski in his recent article, Opioid-use disorders: The role of the employee assistance program points out the vital role that EAPs can play if their programs are built and positioned correctly.

1) Position the EAP as the entry-point for all mental health and substance abuse services. Employees with an opioid-abuse problem require a significant level of advocacy and support. Consider putting the phone number for the EAP on the company insurance card, with language that steers all employees seeking help for a mental health or substance abuse problem to the EAP first. Similarly, ensure that customer service representatives, benefits specialists and any other internal or external health plan experts or advocates are trained to refer employees to the EAP for assistance. The EAP should spearhead and deliver this external training initiative.

2) Ensure all calls into the program are answered live 24/7/365 by a licensed, experienced clinician. When an employee with an opioid-abuse problem calls the EAP, the first person he or she speaks with must be an expert. With opioid abuse, problems escalate quickly and crises are common. In most cases, the window of opportunity when an opioid user is receptive to help is short. An experienced clinician can reinforce the positive steps an employee is taking and use evidence-based strategies to enhance motivation to change and increase the likelihood that the employee will follow through with treatment.

3) Confirm that the EAP conducts a comprehensive mental health and substance abuse assessment for every participant. Stigma is real, and employees often minimize their problems. A comprehensive clinical assessment that includes evidence-based screening tools will ensure that no underlying issues are missed. Then, based on the assessment, the EAP clinician can work collaboratively with the employee to develop the most clinically appropriate care path – and provide guidance to the highest-quality and most cost-effective, in-network treatment options. By ensuring employees always receive referrals to the ‘right’ providers and facilities the EAP can have significant and measurable impact on healthcare costs.

4) Ensure that your EAP has a clinical orientation and can provide a warm hand-off to your medical plan. Opioid abuse or addiction will likely require longer-term and more highly structured treatment plans than typical EAP problem resolution. That means using resources within the employee’s medical plan. A variety of treatment options are available to battle opioid abuse, including detoxification, inpatient rehabilitation, outpatient behavioral health counseling and medication assisted treatment. Often, the most effective solution is a combination of multiple treatment types. By ensuring a secure, warm hand-off from the EAP, the employee’s case continues to be handled appropriately from start to finish. When addressing opioid addiction, the importance of ongoing case management at every stage of the treatment process cannot be overstated.

Your EAP can also be an organizational resource to assist employers who wish to take a more proactive role in addressing issues related to employee opioid use and abuse. The following are just a few of the many ways that an EAP can support the organization:

  • HR/management consultation
  • Drug-free workplace policy development
  • Employee and supervisor education and training (including ‘reasonable suspicion’ training)
  • Formal management referral services
  • Substance abuse professional services (for employees whose job duties fall under federal Department of Transportation regulations)

The opioid problem is large and not showing signs of receding. Don’t assume your business or your employees are immune. They’re not. You may not be able to fix the problem, but taking the steps noted here will help you manage it and lessen it’s impact on your business.

To learn more about Spotlight or Espyr’s innovative EAP call 866-570-3479 or click here.

The Benefit That Retains Talent and Cuts Cost?

You’re In For A Surprise. It’s always a challenge to attract and retain good employees. But in times of high employment – like today – the challenge is even greater. Of course, in any economy, you’re still limited in terms of benefits; when it comes to salaries, health insurance, 401(k) matching and the like, there’s only so much money in the bucket.

Fortunately, there’s one often-overlooked benefit that can provide a true retention and recruiting advantage over your competition – a comprehensive EAP (Employee Assistance Program). That’s right. A comprehensive EAP, implemented correctly, can yield surprising benefits, including decreased healthcare costs, reduced absenteeism and a happier, more productive workforce. Increasingly, employers and employees are recognizing the value; on their 2018 list of ten perks that attract and retain employees, places EAPs just behind Snacks and Coffee, Flexible Work Schedules and Working from Home.

The Behavioral Health Drain

Everyone understands how physical illness in the workforce can lead to employee and employer hardships, financial and otherwise. In much the same way, behavioral health issues can be a huge drain on productivity, as well as overall healthcare costs. Of the 1,500-plus workers interviewed by the American Psychological Association (APA) for the 2016 Work and Well-Being Survey, one in three reported being chronically stressed on the job, and less than half of the respondents felt their company supported employee well-being.

Not All EAPs Are Alike

Any EAP can address behavioral issues, but a comprehensive plan can do more, and do it better. Some leading edge EAPs, for example, are using data analytics to proactively address behavioral health issues, which leads to increased employee engagement and reduced healthcare costs. Addressing the issues, though, is more than a trend; it’s a necessity. “Employers who understand the link between employee well-being and organizational performance,” says David Ballard, PsyD, MBA and head of the APA’s Center for Organizational Excellence, “are best positioned for success.”

But beware of the “free” EAP. While the goal of any EAP plan is to improve employee wellness by helping them deal with personal and work problems, not all plans are alike. Most of the free add-on plans offered by health insurance companies and brokers, in fact, contract with third-party providers with limited offerings and a reduced level of service. Employee care is not a priority; checking off the EAP box is. In addition, these plans are never truly free; employers are paying premiums as part of their overall package.

A comprehensive EAP plan offered by a specialty vendor is a very different animal. These providers are true partners in the behavioral health of your employees. They’ll help you with program marketing and employee awareness. They’ll help you address the stigma often associated with behavioral health issues. They’ll help you make the program work better. Plus, they have the experience and knowledge to help employees and their family members in a professional, clinically-appropriate manner.

The list of services offered by a comprehensive EAP is surprisingly extensive. And for employers watching their bottom line, these plans more than pay for themselves in increased employee productivity, improved retention, reduced absenteeism and reduced healthcare costs.

Features of a Comprehensive EAP

Just like there are comprehensive, best-in-class insurance plans, there are comprehensive, best-in-class EAPs. Make sure your EAP provider offers a full breadth of counseling, coaching, work/life balance and organizational support services, including:

  • Counseling and referral services by licensed counselors
  • Provider/employee matching and access to services in-person, telephonically, by video or via chat
  • Financial and legal consultations
  • Eldercare and childcare consultation, resources and referrals
  • Unlimited management consultation around formal referrals or other workplace issues
  • Identity theft recovery
  • Leadership coaching
  • Critical incident response services and reporting
  • Proactive awareness initiatives
  • Options like 24/7 HIPAA-compliant texting support, personal coaching, Video call doctor visits and more

Create Better Employees

Helping people live better, happier lives is only one of the benefits of providing a comprehensive EAP plan (although, admittedly, a big benefit). A decrease in problems and worries leads to an increase in productivity.

But there’s a bonus benefit to providing such a plan, whether employees find they need these services or not. When people feel valued, appreciated and cared for, they naturally become more empowered and motivated to do their best work. If you want a loyal and happy workforce, in other words, create a workplace that enables them to be their best.

Learn More

Want to be sure that you have the right EAP for your company?  Click here or call Espyr at 866-570-3479.


Removing the Stigma of Mental Health

Many people feel uncomfortable talking about mental health. Thanks to a long history of movies, books and news stories, the term “mental illness” may conjure up disturbing images of hallucinating schizophrenics, mass shootings and psychotic serial killers.Psycho movie image

The reality of mental health disorders is very different. In fact, these issues touch many of us:

  • One in five Americans is diagnosed with a mental health issue each year.
  • More than 40 million Americans live with depression.
  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people between the ages of 15 and 24.
  • Drug overdoses are the number one killer of Americans under the age of 50.

Despite these startling and far-reaching statistics, mental health issues continue to be seen as a source of shame and something to be kept quiet and out of public view. demi lovatoHundreds of celebrities have opened up and shared their personal battles with depression and other serious mental health issues – from singer Demi Lovato to swimmer Michael Phelps to actor Leonardo DiCaprio – and this has shined a much-needed light on the subject. Still, the stigma around mental health remainsleonardo dicaprio

For employers, mental health issues are a major drag on productivity and driver of healthcare expense. Depression is the leading cause of disability in the United States, and the CDC estimates it’s also the cause of 200 million lost work days per year, costing employers $44 billion in lost productivity. Compounding the problem is the common co-existence of medical and behavioral health disorders:

  • 68% of adults with a mental disorder have at least one medical disorder
  • 29% of adults with a medical disorder have at least one mental health disorder

Why don’t employees seek help? According to Suzanne Delbanco in How Employers Can View Mental Health Stigma, employees may be afraid to admit, even to themselves, that they need support with mental health. Or they may not be aware that their suffering may be due to anxiety or depression. Those who do recognize the need for treatment may be afraid to leave the office for therapy appointments lest co-workers or employers notice. Many fear, if their employer finds out they have a mental health condition, there may be negative repercussions. A 2017 survey shows that 31% of employees say they would be afraid of being labeled as weak, and 22% fear it would impact their opportunities for promotion.

Employers can play a major role in removing the stigma of mental health issues and it’s in their best interest to do so. Here’s what we’ve seen work:

  1. 97% of large companies (over 5,000 employees), as well as an estimated 75-80% of mid sized and smaller companies, have an Employee Assistance Program. Your EAP is the most powerful weapon in your arsenal to combat mental health stigma and increase employee access to help. This is certainly the case if you have a comprehensive EAP, but is unlikely to be true with a “free” EAP. So-called “free” EAPs embedded in disability insurance products generally provide an EAP in name only; their business model only works if employee engagement is minimized, so they will be unlikely to serve any meaningful role in creating employee engagement.
  1. Awareness and education are critically important. Your EAP should be very willing and adept in helping to build awareness and educate your employees. Initiatives we’ve seen work include:
  • Hosting lunch and learns and guest speakers on behavioral health topics in the workplace
  • Offering a monthly topical webinar for employers to use to educate their employees and normalize behavioral health issues
  • Providing educational newsletters.
  • Providing special presentations to educate managers and supervisors about key mental health issues: mental health first aid, suicide prevention, PTSD awareness and substance abuse (including the opioid epidemic)
  1. Promote awareness of the EAP and easy access to behavioral health treatment services at company benefit fairs.
  1. Create a culture of acceptance. For example, when speaking to employees about medical benefits, include behavioral benefits and issues in the conversation, thereby normalizing behavioral health. Also, incorporate language in company policies to prevent stereotyping and eliminate improper language/ labeling or bullying of employees with behavioral health challenges.
  1. Provide access to an Interactive Screening Program allowing employees to anonymously take a screening test for stress, depression and anxiety. Then, if they wish, they can dialogue with a behavioral health professional to understand their screening results and, if needed, connect them to the appropriate form of assistance – a therapist, psychiatrist, treatment program or self-help or support group.
  1. Develop a Peer Support Program to train employees to assist distressed employees and encourage them to access professional behavioral health services.
  1. Larger companies should consider placing behavioral health clinicians on-site at workplaces to assess, refer and provide short-term counseling. A 2015 survey by the The National Association of Worksite Health Centers claims that 45% of all employers offer some sort of on-site health clinic. Adding a behavioral health clinician to an on-site clinic is a natural wellness extension and further helps normalize the concept of mental health. If you’ve ever watched the popular Showtime series Billions, you’ve seen one of the main characters serving as the on-site therapist for fictional company, Axe Capital.
  1. As behavioral health professionals, let your EAP help you draft policies that permit employees to leave work to keep behavioral health or EAP appointments. Structure benefits and policies with the awareness that many areas are underserved in terms of psychiatrists, and alternatives to psychiatry may be needed.

Employers can make a big difference in encouraging and enabling employees with mental health issues to seek help.  We suggest this is the perfect time to start.