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Emotional health Featured

9:21am EDT March 28, 2002

When you're considering your employees' health care needs, remember to include the emotional along with the physical.

Emotional health concerns can affect not only the employee, but your business as well. According to Matrix Integrated Psychological Services, up to 68 percent of all workers at some time experience workplace problems severe enough to prevent them from coping with day-to-day activities, making an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) just as important as other health care benefits.

"For every dollar spent on an EAP, employers see a savings of somewhere between $5 and $15," says Kurt Malkoff, Ph.D., founder and president of Columbus-based Matrix.

Malkoff says early EAP programs provided assessments and referrals only. Employees suffering from a range of personal difficulties, from substance addiction to depression, met with the EAP program coordinator, who referred them to a psychologist. This double-referral meant additional costs to the employer, and was not always effective treatment.

Models such as Matrix's offer employers alternatives that can save money and prove more beneficial. Employers pay a premium per employee, as they do with health insurance, and the employee receives an agreed upon number of sessions, before the company‚s HMO takes over coverage.

"We customize the program to fit the needs of the employer," says Malkoff.

These sessions are available not only to the employee, but also to members of employees' family. The employer has access to the number of sessions the employee has used, but not to what was discussed or recommended.

"What we're finding is that problems are resolved 75 percent of the time within five or six sessions, and 80 percent within eight sessions," says Malkoff.

When choosing an EAP, also consider management support. With a model like Matrix's, managers have unlimited phone access to clinical psychologists for assistance in dealing with employee problems. How to reach: Matrix Integrated Psychological Services, (614) 475-9500 or www.employee-assistance.com