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CareTrek: An Innovation in EAPs

Posted by Joe Antle on February 10, 2020 6:45 AM EST
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Does Research Support Positioning CareTrek as an EAP) Employee....

Assistance Program?

What is an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)?


Many leading employers support their employees and their employees’ families by sponsoring Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) focused on mental health services.  According to the International Employee Assistance Professionals Association (EAPA), EAPs “serve organizations and their employees in multiple ways, ranging from consultation at the strategic level about issues with organization-wide implications to individual assistance to employees and family members experiencing personal difficulties.”


EAP services are paid for in full by the employer, though some may require employees to pay for enhanced or specialized services.   All EAP services are provided confidentially; employers do not know which individual employees access EAP services.  They only receive data regarding the number who do. Some large organizations offer in-house EAP services, while others outsource them to specialized EAP providers. Regardless of approach, EAPs typically offer access to a 24-hour telephone hotline.

How Do EAPs Strategically “Fit” into Leading Employers’ “People Strategies” (HR)?

Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) are viewed by leading employers as a part of a comprehensive benefits package that employers may provide for their employees.  Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) are usually offered in conjunction with the employer’s employee health insurance benefits, but are not actually health insurance paid.

An EAP helps employees deal with issues that might otherwise adversely impact the employees’ health and wellness, or work performance. Leading employers feel that factors such as mental health conditions, sleep problems, stigma, and substance use and abuse negatively impact business performance by reducing productivity and increasing  absences. They also increase safety risks and workman’s comp claims risk, especially related to substance abuse.  In addition, EAPs can be highly beneficial in the workplace because they promote employee self-managed care, which can reduce health care costs for emergency room visits and expensive treatments for alcohol and drug-related addictions and negative behaviors that go on for too long.  Some employers believe that the EAP can improve their company culture indirectly.

What Do EAPs Actually Do in the Workplace?

Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) provide needs assessment, help, counseling, and referrals for employees and their family members when they are faced with mental health or emotional issues. Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) try to assist the employee when he or she needs help dealing with life events, workplace issues, and other personal problems and challenges. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, EAPs most frequently assist employees and help them deal with issues in these areas:

  • Drug abuse/Alcoholism
  • Marital difficulties
  • Financial problems
  • Emotional problems
  • Legal problems

Short-term counseling and support may be all that an employee needs. Generally, for longer-term counseling and support, a referral to another agency or provider is offered by the EAP.  For specialized conditions such as mental health and substance use disorders which are growing and “in the news” there are advantages to leading employers and their EAPs to have immediate referral options as CareTrek. In fact, EASNA reports that 1 in 4 adults have an untreated mental disorder, while 1 in 8 may have an addiction problem.

How Are EAPs Being Administered in the Workplace? 

Employers have increasingly offered Employee Assistance Programs (EAP), often through their health care providers.  EAPs are 100 percent paid for by employers and are most often operated through an agreement with a third-party administrator. This is critical because employees must feel comfortable speaking in confidence with a professional about their personal problems, without fear of losing their jobs or status at work. However, if the EAP offers access to medically-related support, such as mental health counseling or treatment for alcoholism/substance abuse, they are regulated by ERISA and subject to COBRA guidelines. 

According to U.S. Department of Labor and ACA guidelines, EAP programs "are considered to be excepted benefits, but only if the program does not provide significant benefits in the nature of medical care or treatment." EAPs are not portable benefits, and they expire upon termination from the company benefits program.  Thus, in light of this interpretation, it may be prudent to position CareTrek as an enhancement to the EAP program for conditions of substance abuse (alcohol and drug addiction) for leading employers versus a replacement for the EAP service.


Are EAPs Growing and Being Offered by More Employers?

According to the Employee Assistance Research Foundation, in 2008, data show that 78% of public sector employees and 46% of private sector employees had access to EAPs, a notable increase from the percentage of employees covered by EAPs in 1999 when the figures were 43% and 21% respectively.  (Source: Employee Assistance Research Foundation was founded in 2007 to understand the EAP field and examine the effectiveness of EAP services overall for employees and employers.)

In the US, over 97% of companies with more than 5,000 employees have EAPs. 80% of companies with 1,001 - 5,000 employees have EAPs. 75% of companies with 251 - 1,000 employees have EAPs. A 2008 National Study of Employers following ten years trends related to U.S. workplace policies and benefits shows that the EAP industry continues to grow, with 65% of employers providing EAPs in 2008, up from 56% in 1998. (Source:  Employee Assistance Professionals Association (EAPA).   Finally, CompEAP reports that Employee Assistance Program (EAP) Services were provided by 93% of large employers and 74% of all employers in 2012 (up from 46% in 2005). A 2016 SHRM report showed the number to be 77%, in other words, more employers are offering EAPs over time.

Are Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) Effective?

The Employee Assistance Research Foundation says that the field of employee assistance has not produced enough research to justify its prolific and expanding use by employers both in the United States and abroad.  The breadth of services that EAPs now offer may have reduced the impact of their programs on specific conditions such as drug and alcohol addiction among valued employees and/or their families.  ”Although there are some studies suggest EAPs are generally effective, the EAP evidence base leaves many questions unanswered. In part this is due to common methodological limitations; for example, the literature is dominated by single case studies and by program evaluations that do not always meet rigorous scientific standards. Although there has been an impressive accumulation of program evaluations undertaken by employers (and their EA providers or consultants), most of these evaluations have been considered proprietary and not widely disseminated or published in scholarly journals. In addition, there is a need for additional research focused on contemporary EA service delivery models since this has changed dramatically over the years, on specifically examining the ‘active ingredients’ in EAP effectiveness, and on measuring outcomes of most relevance to employers and workers.”

While there may be little “hard” evidence that demonstrates that EAPs are effective in serving the goal of employers to maintain productivity and healthier employees, EAPs do give employers an option when dealing with troubled staff members whom they are ill-equipped to serve in-house.  The EAP is a third-party service that has many resources and specializations beyond what an employer can offer. This takes the burden off the employer and reduces risks. 

Therefore, it is predicted that among leading employers, the popularity of EAPs will continue to rise.  And many HR leaders hope that unbiased research going forward demonstrates that EAPs do, in fact, serve the best interests of employers and employees.  This point of caution is a potentially BIG selling point for CareTrek which benefits from evidence-based research success rates in PHP, licensed professionals testing and monitoring programs.

What is the Average Cost to Employers to Offer EAPs to Their Employees?

Offering an EAP should cost you about $35 a year per employee. However, prices vary greatly depending on geographic location, and whether the EAP is a pay-per-use program or a fixed rate per employee program. Thus, the range can be anywhere from $10-$100 a year per employee. Larger employers pay a lower per employee rate than smaller companies as you can see in the chart below, based on EAP rates in Washington DC., with larger employers with employee populations of over 1,000 paying rates well below $20 PEPY.

Size of Employer

Average EAP Cost
(PEPY: Per employee per year)

1-25 Employees


25-250 Employees


250-1,000 Employees

$22.70 or less

Data source:




What is the Utilization Rate for EAP Services Offered by Employers with More Than 1,000 Employees?

EAP Counseling Clinical Services

45 cases receive EAP counseling:

  • 36 employees and 9 spouse/family
  • 8 cases referred out from EAP for more care

113 total sessions with EAP counselors


Work/Life Counseling Cases

·                     4.5 Childcare

·                     3.2 Elder Care

·                     2.2 Concierge


What is the Bottom Line for How Best to Leverage CareTrek in Relation to EAPs?  (Joe’s Recommendation).

Originally, EAPs were focused on substance abuse disorders. The first programs, started in the 1930s, were peer-to-peer efforts to address worker alcohol use and its impact on worker performance. Over time, employers realized the model could be used to help employees address a range of personal and mental health issues that might negatively impact their productivity.  The widening of the range of services offered by EAPs may have increased the popularity among employers as a suitable and relatively low-cost employee benefit for a large variety of emotional issues that face employees and their families.  However, the lack of focus on a set of very clear, contemporary and pressing issues such as recovery programs for alcoholism and drug addiction among valued employees has left the EAP with a credibility issue in terms of results-and proven evidence of effectiveness.   


This creates a “conundrum” for CareTrek.  On the one hand, research shows that EAPs are a standard offering which is growing amongst larger employers.  On the other hand, there are questions about employees achieving effective results.  However, CareTrek is built on the formula that has proved to be successful in alleviating alcoholism and drug addiction dependency in over 80% of licensed professionals who participate in PHP programs.  This is a key strategic leverage point for CareTrek.  By offering CareTrek as an enhancement to employers’ EAP programs, CareTrek in effect becomes a specialized, evidence-based stand-alone solution for drug and alcohol addiction which helps employers retain and hire key talent who may be fighting addiction which may lead to them becoming less employable.


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