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Filling the Gap Between EAPs and Behavioral Health Benefits

mental healthemployee benefitsTelehealthEAPHealth & Wellness • 4 min read • May 17, 2018 12:00:00 AM • Written by: Jessica A. Hostert PMP PHR

How Businesses Can Leverage EAPs and Telebehavioral Health To Meet Employees’ Mental Health Needs

Employee Assistance Programs fill an important need for employers. They are inexpensive, high-value, and provide a valuable resource for employees who need quick help with a personal or workplace issue that may be negatively impacting their performance.

The National Business Group on Health reports that EAPs can help employers reduce overall healthcare claims, workers’ compensation and disability costs. The plans typically provide short-term, solution-focused services for employees and their family members struggling with life events, workplace issues, and other personal problems and challenges. Some plans even include counseling, an attractive option given the relationship between mental health, employee performance and the bottom line.

While EAPs are not designed to serve as a stand-alone option for mental health services, these plans play a role in a company’s overall emphasis on employee wellness in the workplace.
If you’re looking to purchase an EAP – or are interested in providing robust behavioral health services for your staff – consider the following questions:

Does the EAP include counseling?

Most EAPs provide quick support for people facing mental or emotional stressors. They often offer short-term counseling to help employees overcome a hurdle at work or at home – things like family issues, stress, workplace conflicts, job burnout and money worries. A typical EAP includes three to eight sessions with a counselor, which may resolve the issue entirely.

For people in need of further therapy and support, the EAP will not provide a long-term solution. Think about it this way: if your goal is to get in shape, will three or four visits to the gym be enough? Likewise, for people struggling with grief, drug abuse, mood disorders, or other chronic conditions, short-term counseling is unlikely to do the trick. In such cases, the EAP may provide a referral for ongoing therapy.

How is payment handled?

EAPs are generally paid 100 percent by the employer. They typically cover employees as well as immediate family members and others living in the same home. The EAP pays for a certain number of counseling sessions, but it does not cover the costs for employees who are referred elsewhere for longer-term treatment.

Depending on the business’ behavioral health benefits, employees may need to come up with the cash to continue their treatment. Unfortunately, this may create a roadblock for employees in need of longer-term mental health services. Additionally, because behavioral health provider networks are extremely narrow, a large proportion of mental healthcare falls out of network. According to a 2017 research report by Milliman, employees with mental health or substance abuse problems are far more likely to encounter high out-of-pocket costs that make treatment unaffordable – even if they’re insured.

What is the utilization?

Typically, utilization of EAPs is on the low end. While they’re offered at 97 percent of large businesses, the National Business Group on Health reports that only five percent of employees access services each year. Moreover, EAPs often are buried in health plan paperwork – employees may not even realize they have access to services through an EAP.

However, utilization increases among companies that make it a point to educate their staff on the services that are available. For these employers, EAPs are a low-cost, tried-and-true safety net for employees who need quick, short-term help.

Why are robust behavioral health benefits important?

Employers are increasingly aware of the impacts of mental health on the workplace. reports that when employees receive effective treatment for mental health issues, medical and disability costs come down while productivity goes up.

For employees with access to high-quality mental healthcare, the results are remarkable. The Center for Workplace Mental Health reports that a full 80 percent of employees who received treatment reported improved workplace productivity and satisfaction. What’s more, research shows that every $1 investment in mental health promotion has a $3 to $5 return on investment.

In a nutshell, providing comprehensive behavioral health benefits is good for employees – and smart for businesses.

How can companies address the mental health needs of their staff?

EAPs are a great start in providing behavioral health services to employees. To care for employees in need of longer-term therapy, many businesses are providing services through telebehavioral health providers like MeMD.

With MeMD, this means quick and simple access to a wide network of high-quality providers across the country. Our professionals will design an appropriate treatment plan to help employees resolve their issues and move forward in a healthier, happier way. This may mean short-term counseling, long-term treatment, or something in between. Here’s how the initial process works with MeMD:

  • Members can log onto MeMD’s platform 24/7 to select their desired appointment date and time. Sessions are 50 minutes.
  • They can connect with a therapist in as little as 48 hours from their computer or mobile device, significantly aiding convenience, comfort, and confidentiality.
  • Unlike most competitive services – virtual or in person – MeMD has built validated measurement and outcome-based care into its model. Members who request a therapy session are prompted to complete the Behavioral Health Screen, a multi-dimensional, comprehensively validated assessment tool. An advanced algorithm ranks the risk factors across 16 domains, providing benchmarks for progress and improvement.

And, because MeMD providers are licensed and meet our rigorous credentialing criteria, employers can rest assured their employees are receiving highly effective care.

What about employees who don’t realize they’re suffering from a mental health issue?
MeMD offers a validated screening tool that can be distributed to an entire employee group.

Employees whose scores indicate they are suffering from a mental or emotional issue will be prompted with a reminder of their behavioral health benefit – all while safeguarding their anonymity. In other words, they don’t have to worry about being “outed” at work, an important consideration given the stigma of mental illness that still exists.

Likewise, employees can receive counseling in the privacy of their homes, making it easier, more convenient, and much more likely they will seek and complete treatment.

Providing behavioral health services through telehealth is the next frontier. It’s an opportunity for business owners to address employees’ mental and emotional needs – and it’s also good for business.

Learn more about MeMD’s behavioral health services at

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Jessica A. Hostert PMP PHR