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    A multitude of recent studies tell us that anxiety and depression are markedly higher now than in earlier eras.

    For employers, the most common tool provided to employees suffering from anxiety, depression and other mental health issues is the Employee Assistance Program (EAP). EAPs have become almost universal in mid sized or larger American companies. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 85% of US businesses with 500 employees or more offered access to an EAP. Within larger companies, those with more than 5,000 employees, the percentage gets even larger with 97% reporting that they offer EAP access to their employees.

    Yet, one of the most common complaints about EAPs is that they don’t get used. In fact, average utilization rates range from 4.5% to 6.5%.

    The need for behavioral health solutions has never been greater

    As the need for mental health solutions grows, one would expect EAPs to be used more frequently. Why isn’t that happening? Most experts point to several factors.

    1. There is still a stigma attached with mental health conditions.   For most people with a physical ailment, seeking help from a professional such as a doctor is the smart, socially acceptable response. However, ask that same person whether they’d seek professional help for a mental health condition and you’re liable to see a very different reaction. The stigma of mental health is still a very significant barrier for those needing treatment.
    2. There is concern for confidentiality. Could asking for help become noted in your personal file? Could it impact promotion opportunities? What if fellow employees learn about it? These are all understandable questions, and in some cases justifiable concerns.
    3. Despite the high prevalence, employee awareness of EAPs is often low, and awareness of the breadth of EAP support services offered is even lower.  Lack of awareness may be partially attributed to broker or insurance carrier provided EAPs – the free EAP – thrown in to sweeten a benefits package. Free EAPs may sound good, but in order to turn a profit a free EAP provider has to minimize utilization and reduce services. That means limited or no marketing to build awareness, limited management reporting, no on – site services or face-to-face sessions and a reduced level of support when employees call for help.

    Organizations still need an EAP

    This is not to say that EAPs don’t have value. They do, and most employers need to provide employees the services that an EAP can deliver.

    Furthermore, there are many ways to increase EAP utilization rates and stand alone EAPs like those offered by companies like Espyr achieve much higher utilization than the average EAP.

    Nonetheless, EAPs are reactive tools. They work only when employees engage. When employees don’t use the mental health services offered by their EAP the implications can be costly for both employers and employees.

    Is there a better solution?

    Sensing that something different was needed, behavioral health companies like Espyr have focused on new product innovation to address the growing need for more effective mental health solutions. High stress occupations in particular, like first responders, the military, airline pilots, healthcare, teachers and business executives are needy targets for such new solutions.

    At Espyr, the need for an innovative solution resulted in the development of a new offering called Spotlight™. Rather than hope that employees with mental health issues step forward and ask for help, Spotlight uses big data analytics to proactively identify those employees posing the highest potential healthcare expense risk. Spotlight then cross-references expense risk with a proprietary tool that indicates the likelihood to engage. The output enables employers to not only proactively address those posing the greatest expense risk, but empowers them to efficiently target those employees most likely to accept help.

    Finally, Espyr connects those targeted employees with professionally trained master’s degreed coaches from its national network of behavioral health professionals to create individualized solutions.

    Mental health conditions and physical health issues frequently co-exist

    Spotlight gets help to the employees that need it most while reducing productivity losses and absenteeism for employers. Furthermore, there is increasing recognition of the co- existence of mental health and physical health conditions.   This co-existence means that effectively addressing physical health conditions often requires addressing underlying mental health disorders. Failing to do so can lead to escalating healthcare outlays to treat chronic health conditions.


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