New benefit offers comprehensive counseling to employees

SF State employees will soon have access to a new benefit that offers free comprehensive counseling and assistance in dealing with personal and professional challenges.

 SF State sign on 19th and Holloway

Starting Oct. 1, the University will offer expanded professional help services to all employees, including free face-to-face counseling; a 24/7 help line; referrals for legal, financial, and dependent care resources; online employee and management tools and on-campus seminars and workshops.

The new Employee Assistance Program (EAP) will be provided through Empathia Pacific, Inc., an employee support company. The program is available to all faculty, staff and administrators, whether full or part-time. Students are not eligible.

"The EAP program is an investment in our employee’s well-being and productivity," said Lori Gentles, associate vice president of Human Resources, Safety and Risk Management. "The goal is to provide information, tools and resources that employees and managers can use to constructively manage their personal and professional issues."

The cornerstone of the program is a confidential counseling service that employees can use to seek advice in dealing with a range of concerns, including relationship and marital stress, parenting challenges, financial worries, depression and drug or alcohol dependency. Phone support is also available at all times, with referrals for legal and financial advice.

"We're very excited to bring this positive benefit to our employees and it's a step in the right direction in supporting our staff and empowering them to successfully traverse life's terrain," said Gentles.

Employees, as well as any member of their immediate household, can call to make an appointment with a counselor near their home or office, with three free sessions available per issue. All contact with counselors is confidential and information discussed in the sessions will not be shared with the University.

The new program differs from existing services in that it offers a more comprehensive and accessible way for employees to seek help. Rather than being able to access counseling on an emergency or temporary basis, employees will now have ongoing support for a range of issues. The program focuses on intervening in personal problems early -- before they begin to affect an employee's well-being or job performance.

"If an employee is struggling with a difficult home situation, it often manifests in the workplace," Gentles said. "The EAP will provide a confidential venue for our employees to work out these types of issues."

Employees are encouraged to learn more about the benefit at upcoming on-campus information sessions held on Sept. 18 and 19. Information sessions will be held at the following times and locations:

Tuesday, Sept. 18
8:30 - 9:30 a.m.: Humanities 133
12:00 - 1:00 p.m.: Library Events Room 121
2:00 - 3:00 p.m.: Library Events Room 121
3:30 - 4:30 p.m.: Library Events Room 121

Wednesday, Sept. 19
9:00 -10:00 a.m.: Library Events Room 121
11:00 - 2:00 p.m.: Admin Building, 1st floor lobby (at Human Resources' annual Benefits Fair)
2:30 - 3:30 p.m.: Library Events Room 121

To access the EAP after Oct. 1, employees can call the toll free number 1-800- 367-7474 or visit the website, using the company password "sfsu."

-- Philip Riley