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  • Writer's pictureNick Mombourquette

Employee and Family Assistance Programs: Improving access to mental health support

Updated: May 9, 2019

EFAPs Improving access to mental health support

A lot of work is being done to reduce the stigma around mental health in Canada, but it’s no secret that provincial mental health services and support can be hard to come by.

According to, a provincial website designed to help Nova Scotians navigate the healthcare system, people can wait upwards of 200 days in certain communities in Nova Scotia for non-urgent mental health services. Generally speaking, the situation looks shockingly similar across the country.

But, thankfully, all hope is not lost. Employee and Family Assistance Programs (EFAP) offer support, advice and resources for a wide range of problems and concerns people face every day. Whether it’s emotional well-being, work issues, parenting and child care, or financial and legal issues, employees and their family members can typically contact their EFAP to discuss anything that may be troubling them.

In Nova Scotia, 90% of people are served within 115 days non-emergency mental health services. On the flip side, many EFAPs can be accessed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at which time some emergency services can be arranged right away. Other non-emergency appointments are usually accommodated within a few business days.

Timelines are just one of the obvious benefits of having access to an EFAP. Anonymity and confidentiality are also high on the list of reasons why employees appreciate the services. It’s reassuring to know they can to talk to a trained professional over the phone, from the comfort of home. Some programs even have the option to request resources via email. Depending on the subject matter, resources could include books, articles, CDs and DVDs on a variety of topics.

How employers can help

NewGround Financial recommends offering an EFAP as part of every benefits program. Some insurance providers even have EFAP options embedded in their standard group benefits offerings. Making these services available to employees is only the first step. It’s important to promote the program as often as possible, so it’s top of mind whenever a plan member (or a family member) realizes they need some help.

Benefits programs, including EFAPs, can help attract and retain top talent by providing increased access to health care solutions for employees. Being proactive about employees’ wellbeing could lead to improved overall health, decreased incidences of time away from work and possible disability claims.

What employees can do

If you’re reading this not as a business owner, but as an employee, you also have a role to play in pursuing the support you and your family needs. Being proactive and understanding the depth and breadth of your benefits program and EFAP will serve you well when the need arises.

Do you know about the benefits available through your employer? Do you have access to an EFAP? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, do you know how you could find out? If your employer doesn’t offer a benefits program or EFAP, consider suggesting it to your manager or Human Resources department.

If you’ve read something here that interests you, or you'd like to know more about EFAPs, book a meeting or contact us. I'd love to discuss your specific situation to see how a tailored benefit plan and EFAP could help you.

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