Agency program provides holistic benefits, assistance

By Dianne Ryder

As the deputy director of DLA Human Resources, Billie Keeler is very familiar with Federal Occupational Health  and the Employee Assistance Program .

But now he sees the EAP’s benefits from two perspectives: as a human resources executive and an employee who has taken advantage of the program’s services. 

“My parents had gotten pretty ill, and [my siblings and I] were debating about whether it was time to put them in an assisted living home,” said Keeler.

He called the EAP toll-free phone number and explored options with a representative.

“Literally within an hour, I had a phone call from somebody,” he said. “They were able to connect me with some folks in the area close to where my parents lived and actually referred me to some other places for additional information.”

It was information Keeler and his siblings used to plan for their parents’ future.

“It’s almost like having your own personal assistant,” he said. “The [staff is] very responsive no matter where you are; 365 days a year, 24 hours a day you can call, [and] they will answer and link you up with somebody … or they will send you information.”

Any DLA employee can access from their home or work computer and enter “DLA” (case sensitive) as both the screen name and password. Under the heading of DLA Life Connections is a wealth of resources: discounts on brand name products, financial and legal advice, links to webinars and discussion groups and articles on a wide range of subjects.   

Employees may also be eligible to request one of five free DLA Life Connections kits (adult caregiver’s kit, prenatal kit, child safety kit, college kit, and “be well” kit) by calling the number at the top of the DLA Life Connections page.

Keeler said the site also offers relocation assistance. Whereas most military service members know where to access relocation information, civilian employees who aren’t as transient may not.  The EAP representatives can help by providing employees a complete relocation package.

“They will get you information on schools, neighborhoods, crime statistics and real estate,” Keeler said.

Keeler said DLA boasts above-average use of the program’s services, but his office is ready to launch an “awareness blitz” to educate DLA’s workforce on what EAP can do for them.

“I think if more people knew about what was out there, [the website] might be the first place to go to for information,” he said. “I’m just trying to imagine a need that an individual would have that they don’t provide.”

The awareness campaign is going to include more than just an occasional bulletin blurb, Keeler said. When DLA’s new EAP consultant reports in mid-April, DLA will market the program even more.

In the pursuit to promote resiliency as one of DLA’s core values, EAP is a natural fit, Keeler said.

“This [program] will probably meet all of those needs that an employee would have to help them be resilient,” he said.  

Penny Ginger, an FOH EAP consultant and licensed clinical social worker, has worked at DLA Aviation since 2001.

Ginger said EAP is unique because it is geared toward federal employees, but its benefits extend to their immediate family members as well —even children attending college out of state. The program also allows for individual counseling, should family members require it.

 “Some people are very surprised that we’re not just counseling for drug and alcohol [abuse], because that’s how EAP started,” Ginger said.

Ginger provides counseling for a number of issues including marital counseling, grief counseling, anger management, eating disorders, and relationships with coworkers, family members and others.

The program affords clients up to six initial sessions with a counselor.

“We really encourage people to come in sooner [rather] than later so we can get things resolved in those six sessions,” Ginger said.

If the problem is not resolved in six sessions, Ginger said EAP refers the employee to a counselor in his or her community who participates with the employee’s health insurance.

Posters and newsletters that identify Ginger as the EAP counselor can be found throughout DLA Aviation’s facility. But Ginger said she also informs employees about the program by speaking at new employee orientations, town hall meetings, leadership forums, work groups, and supervisory orientations.

“We do a lot of management consults so that if a supervisor has a problem employee, they can always call EAP, and it’s confidential as well.”

Ginger said word of mouth is another source of referrals.

“Somebody will be going through something and [employees who have used EAP] will say, ‘Have you ever talked to Penny?’ or, ‘Penny helped me with this,’” she said. “I get a lot of referrals from previous clients.”

Approximately 90 percent of clients who seek help through EAP self-referrals — meaning employees decide on their own to come, Ginger said.

She said EAP also has a small percentage of clients who are informally referred. A supervisor who has noticed a change in an employee’s behavior or absences from work may recommend EAP to the employee.

“About 2 percent are formal referrals, and that’s when a supervisor directs someone to come to the EAP,” Ginger said.

Ginger reiterated that employees should be assured of complete confidentiality.

“Everybody who does EAP is all licensed, clinical professionals,” she said. “That’s part of our license, that we can’t betray confidentiality.”

Employees are not even required to let supervisors know they are consulting with EAP, which is why many clients come during lunchtime or after work, Ginger said.

“We can’t even let people know if [clients] come here unless they sign a release of information saying we can tell somebody,” she said.

If employees do inform their supervisors they are meeting with an EAP representative, they need not divulge the reason. And if the counselor is on site, DLA’s policy dictates they will not be charged leave for the time they spend in consultation, Ginger said.

To contact an EAP representative, DLA employees can call 1-800-222-0364. Employees who are overseas can call collect at: 1-314-387-4701.