HealthlinkNY Community Network to Pilot a Mental Health Toolkit for the Workplace

June 6th, 2017 - If you want to reduce the barriers that keep adults with a diagnosable mental health condition from seeking help, the workplace is a good place to start.

“A majority of the population spends at least one-third of their time working, so if you want to reach as many people as possible, reach them at their place of work,” explains Phillip Ginter, LMSW, MPA, Director of Community Initiatives at HealthlinkNY.

HealthlinkNY and community stakeholders have made it a priority to address the social and systemic barriers to accessing mental and behavioral support for individuals who need it. The effort, part of a state-funded Population Health Improvement Project (PHIP) led by the HealthlinkNY Community Network, is in response to high incidences of suicide, untreated mental health conditions, and substance use disorders in the Hudson Valley and Southern Tier.

HealthlinkNY and its community partners have decided to start by engaging people in the workplace. They are collaborating with regional employers to develop a Workplace Wellness Toolkit that can make employers more aware of and responsive to employees experiencing a mental or behavioral health condition.

Mr. Ginter says the workplace toolkit may be the first of its kind and will fill a gap in workplace wellness programs.

“Those living with a diagnosable mental health or a substance use disorder often face uncertainty about how best to communicate their needs,” he says. “So, what if we reduced the stigma of talking about these conditions in the workplace, and address the need. Employers already support employee wellness through things like blood pressure screenings and free flu shots, but mental and behavioral health are typically not part of their wellness programs.”

HealthlinkNY is making sure employers know that addressing mental and behavioral health wellness in the workplace also can help the bottom line. Mental health conditions cost employers more in lost productivity than any other chronic health condition, according to the American Psychiatric Foundation. And it affects more people than you might think: a U.S. National Comorbidity Survey found that nearly 1 out of 5 working adults experienced a mental health disorder in the previous month.

Beyond the EAP

The toolkit will complement the Employee Assistance Plan (EAP) programs that many employers offer, and is likely to prompt more employees to connect to EAPs, according to Mr. Ginter. However, he points out important differences between the toolkit and EAPs.

“EAP services are typically offered off-site. The toolkit is being designed to create a workplace culture to support well-being and reduce stigma,” he says. “We want to normalize the conversation [about mental and behavioral health] so employees can feel comfortable talking about it and feel supported.”

A Pilot Project with 30 Employers

HealthlinkNY has been conducting interviews with employers, both large and small, for-profit and not-for-profit, to determine what wellness resources would be most effective in the workplace. HealthlinkNY also is inviting human resource professionals and similar executives at businesses and organizations to take HealthlinkNY’s Workplace Wellness Regional Inventory Survey to further determine what should be in the Workplace Wellness Toolkit.

Employers have an opportunity to be one of 30 sites to pilot the toolkit when the prototype is ready this summer. The toolkit is likely to include resources for mental and behavioral health screening, sample policies, on-site activities, and local resources for employee referrals. It also will assist employers in navigating policies regarding employee privacy and confidentiality, an important issue in the mental health field.

The pilot program is open to any company with offices in the Southern Tier and Hudson Valley. For more information, contact Mr. Ginter at 844-840-0050 or community@healthlinkny.com