By Mark Powell
A New Kind of Employee
Back in 1964, two Des Moines women had a vision. They formed a clearinghouse for resources on alcohol use disorder called the National Council on Alcoholism. A decade later, a new executive director implemented several innovative programs. In one of them, he partnered with local businesses and public officials to create an employee assistance program. That’s when Employee and Family Resources was born.
While there are many employee assistance programs today, this nonprofit organization is unique because it’s a public and private collaboration.
Employee and Family Resources mission has continued to evolve over the years, too. Tammy Hoyman witnessed much of it firsthand. Now the organization’s CEO, she has worked there since 1996. “We expanded outside of Iowa when one employer asked us to serve employees in another state,” she recalls. “We currently have 5,000 providers nationwide. We’re based in little old Des Moines, Iowa but we have a nationwide reach.”
Hoyman says research shows only 41 percent of people who experience depression get the help they need. The number is even lower for addiction treatment. “People don’t access services for four reasons: they don’t recognize their problems as being bad enough to require attention; stigma; high cost; and not knowing where to turn for help. We address all these barriers and can serve as an entry point to long-term treatment. They can’t solve everyone’s problems, but this is a great place to start regardless of what your concerns are.”
Employee and Family Resources also operates an independent central assessment center that works closely with courts, criminal justice organizations, and treatment centers throughout the state to make referrals. It started a small outpatient center a few years ago in response to a shortage of services that now treats about 30 clients yearly. A restorative justice program was added 15 years ago to address underage possession of alcohol and one ounce or less of marijuana. And student assistance services are also provided.
But Employee and Family Resources’ core mission remains to assist workers who need help. Hoyman remembers the case of one client who was charged with alcohol-impaired driving in a company vehicle. “He was a great, long-term employee and they didn’t want to fire him. He was given an opportunity to undergo the program in lieu of disciplinary action or termination.
He accepted and discovered his biggest issue was actually undiagnosed and untreated anxiety. He had also been self-medicating it. He was able to resolve his legal issues, get back on track, and return to work. That, in a nutshell, is what we do.”
Employee and Family Resources was a featured award winner in the 2019 Innovation Now project of the Addiction Policy Forum.
J. Mark Powell is an author, former network journalist, and veteran communications expert.