Is Your EAP Equipped to Handle SUD?

Traditionally, EAPs or Employee Assistance Programs served to help employees navigate a broad range of health and life topics, from medical bills to retirement planning. In the face of the Opioid Epidemic, EAPs and medical plans have adapted to provide specialized support to employees with addiction. Some offer short-term counseling while others offer treatment referrals. How do you know if your EAP is equipped to handle Substance Use Disorder (SUD)?


One of the many reasons employees with SUD don’t seek help is they don’t know where to start. To make sure your employees know what services exist, and that using an EAP is completely confidential, ask your EAP provider about how their services are marketed to members. Regular newsletters, webinars, and proactive communication of services they provide related to SUD can reach your employees to answer the question of, ‘How do I get help?’


Once their services are known, your EAP provider should be able to guide an employee through an evaluation of their situation. Not everyone living with SUD will need to immediately take leave from their job to check into an inpatient rehabilitation facility. In fact, many employees with SUD could seek outpatient counseling and support through local providers. Having SUD means building a lifestyle of sobriety, one that can also allow for fully functioning in the workforce along with keeping up with the many responsibilities of life management. An EAP must ready to help evaluate and advise an employee with SUD on a plan of treatment. Ask your EAP provider to walk you through their evaluation process and assess whether it’s tailored to the person’s needs or a generalized solution.

Referrals to Treatment

Treatment will vary from person to person. There isn’t a single cure or recommendation that will support your employees living with SUD. Your EAP should refer employees to local, easily accessible options that are partnered to your health insurance provider. Another key service is follow-up. Your EAP provider should have measures in place to follow up with those seeking help. Should the first treatment option fail, the employee may not proactively reach back out for help. Having an EAP in place that will check in with the employee at regular intervals could be a life-saving feature of the plan.

Updating the capabilities of your EAP is an important step toward becoming a Recovery Friendly Workplace and a Drug Free Workplace.

EAPs are underutilized, but their impact on both the employer’s bottom line and the employee’s quality of life is indisputable. Ask your provider specific questions about how they will educate, assess, and refer help to those who use your EAP for SUD support.


About the Author: Kelli Bond

Kelli holds SHRM-CP and Gallup Strengths Coach certifications as well as a BA in English and Education. Her passion is to help employers create safe, inclusive, and profitable work environments.
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