An article by reporter Shirley Wang at the Wall Street Journal this week noted that many companies are turning to EAPs or expanding their EAP coverage options as a cost-effective alternative to help fulfill requirements of the mental health parity law. We were pleased to find a brief profile about our services in the article:
“One employee at Harrington Industrial Plastics, a distributor of industrial plastics in Chino, Calif., says she “didn’t know where to start” when looking for help dealing with the loss of a child. She turned to her company’s EAP, which took a “heavy burden” off her by helping find the resources she needed, including an in-network provider.
Harrington had a bare-bones EAP, offering just three telephone counseling sessions, until early this year. To encourage greater use, the company began offering unlimited telephone sessions and introduced in-person sessions through ESI Employee Assistance Group. It also expanded the menu of services offered to include consultations for adoption, caring for elderly parents and even dealing with pets’ behaviors and moods.
Employee use of the Harrington EAP has since risen dramatically, says Robyn Cherney, the company’s human-resources administrator.”
Mental Health Parity and EAPs
According to Wang, many employers with 50+ employees will need to adjust coverage options by January 1 to comply with the mental health parity law (The Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008.) This will entail “setting co-payments for behavioral-health services no higher than those for other medical benefits, as well as lifting or expanding limits on the number of visits to mental-health professionals so they are no less restrictive than physical-health benefits.” The law expands on the parity provisions stipulated in a prior federal law. In addition, many states have their own mental health parity laws.
One advantage of having an EAP is the potential to intervene early so that many life problems and mental health issues can be addressed at an early stage before they burgeon into more debilitating and more disruptive problems. A good EAP with clinical counselors can also serve as a mental health entry point to help ensure appropriate referrals and follow-up for services within a qualified network of providers.
- Watson Wyatt: Mental Health Parity: What Employers Need to Know
- CMS: The Mental Health Parity Act
- DOL: Mental Health Benefits**
- WSJ: Companies Expanding EAP Offerings
** An alert reader notified us that the Department of Labor link that we used in our list did not have the most recent information and therefore was inaccurate. We’ve updated the link with more recent information from the DOL, but be aware that final regulations for the law have been delayed. In October, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius stated that regulations are planned for January 2010. Meanwhile, affected employers should proceed with good faith efforts to comply with the law’s requirements.