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Department & Division News

New Directions for EAP

(This article first appeared in the March/April 2019 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine) 

By Human Relations Director Sue Carney

On Dec. 27, the United States Postal Service awarded a contract to New Directions Behavioral Health to provide Employee Assistance Program (EAP) services to USPS employees and their eligible family and household members. Founded in 1995, the company reports it is one of the fastest growing behavioral health care companies in the industry; providing assistance programs and consulting services to private and public health plans, student organizations, Fortune 100 companies, large and medium employers and labor groups – more than doubling its membership to 16 million members in the last five years.

New Directions competed with a number of other behavioral health companies, including Magellan Health, which has held the Postal EAP contract for more than 17 consecutive years. Over that course of time, Magellan practitioners forged trusted relationships, helping tens of thousands of APWU representatives, members, co-workers and our families throughout the country successfully navigate life’s many challenges. Magellan was instrumental in turning the USPS EAP into an award winning, model program.

Nevertheless, neither Magellan nor the APWU are in a position to disrupt the impending change. The APWU, as a member of the EAP National Joint Committee, provides ongoing guidance regarding service levels and the mechanisms used to provide them, but the committee is not responsible for the day-to-day administration of the program. Unlike the rest of the federal government which is bound by the Competition in Contracting Act, the USPS evaluates its competing proposals on a “best value” basis. The subjective process leaves Magellan virtually no recourse.

New Directions will begin delivering EAP services on Apr. 1. The Postal contract represents the company's largest EAP client to date.

The Transition

New Directions offers innovative counseling and therapy technology, and has an extensive service provider network (affiliates) and an assortment of strategic partnerships that make the company well-suited to serve such a large and diverse employee population.

Recognizing the value of having established relationships and knowledge of postal culture, New Directions will retain 87 EAP professionals who currently work under the Magellan contract. The decision will help ensure a seamless transition in most cases. Regrettably, some beloved counselors, roughly 20 percent, will be lost to the new contract. Salary and hiring decisions lie solely with the vendor. New Directions is hiring additional staff to fill any remaining positions. For several districts, adjustments will be necessary.

EAP will continue to be a voluntary program that provides free, short-term counseling, referral and assessment, coaching and all of our existing program staples. Counselors must continue to be licensed in the state they practice, must possess a Master’s Degree in the social sciences, and have at least three years of counseling experience.

There will continue to be a dedicated helpline, accessible around the clock. The website will be updated to be more user-friendly and will include an array of new self-assessment tools and resources for employees, unions and management. Web-based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy will be expanded to offer additional modules covering more mental health issues.

Critical response and organizational training will continue to be offered. Advisory committees will still receive utilization reports and support. Text Talk is a new feature that will enable individuals who are always on-the-go or who are uncomfortable speaking about their issues to text with a counselor. There will also be a new virtual tool that allows employees to request a session with a participating provider of their choice from the privacy and convenience of their computer or mobile device.

 The EAP has come a long way from its humble beginnings in 1968 as a Program for Alcoholic Recovery. New Directions is yet another building block. Stay tuned. The USPS will be promoting all EAP has to offer in April during EAP Awareness Month.