The Nov. 5 article "Firms use benefits to lure workers" pointed out efforts being made by employers to expand mental health offerings to their employees. Studies and surveys have shown the negative impact of the pandemic on people's mental health with more people experiencing depression and anxiety and higher rates of suicidal thoughts among young adults. Children and adolescents are also struggling. While employers may focus on their employee's mental health, employees have family members who may be struggling as well.
Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) are good but consistently show low usage. The National Alliance on Mental Illness would encourage employers to look beyond EAP benefits and to carefully analyze the mental health benefits offered under their health insurance. Mental health and substance use parity remains a dream, but employers can actually make it a reality. It's one thing to offer three calls a year with a therapist through the EAP program; it's an entirely different approach to make sure your health plan ensures access and covers the treatment options that your employees and their families need.
Employers need to make sure that there is network adequacy: How many days, weeks or months until someone can be seen by a mental health professional? Is the drug formulary more restrictive for mental health than other health care conditions? Does the plan cover mobile mental health crisis teams, crisis homes, mental health residential treatment, psychiatric residential treatment facilities for children? How does prior authorization work — is it more cumbersome and restrictive for mental health treatment? How does the plan add new treatment options such as first-episode-of-psychosis programs, brain stimulation? Have you ever asked for feedback from your employees about your mental health benefits?
Now is the time for employers to look beyond their EAP benefits and to ensure access to mental health and substance use disorder treatment. Having good mental health benefits may attract more workers and will make sure that your current workers have access to the treatments and supports they need to be healthy employees.
Sue Abderholden, St. Paul
The writer is executive director of NAMI Minnesota.
Finally, better workplaces
I read with interest the story "To keep workers, more try fun" (Nov. 7) about companies that are striving to put fun into their workplaces in an effort to attract, and keep, employees. My reaction was, "Sounds like some people finally woke up to the realities of today's workforce."
I offer this insight as a baby boomer with 35-plus years of being employed: We older people often had to toil in what they now call "toxic work cultures" with abusive behaviors that included bullying by supervisors and co-workers, plus sexual and other types of harassment. This caused great stress in many workers, often leading to anxiety, depression, substance abuse and burnout. We had to "put up or shut up" in order to keep our jobs. Words of praise for a job well done were rarely heard in the olden days. I suspect that many employers still manage (control) their workers in the same old ways as though they are robots, which is no fun at all. Is it any wonder people are quitting them?
From what I've seen in the past 10 or so years, it's obvious the current crop of workers are refusing to endure rigid rules and toxic workplaces their elders had to deal with. Therefore companies are suffering the "great resignation" the article refers to, where people seek better work/job environments. Too many employers complain that no one wants to work or that there's no employee loyalty anymore. I guess it's easier to point the blame elsewhere and call people "lazy" rather than take a good look at your employee rules, policies, work culture and business practices to see where you might improve them.
Sending kudos to those employers who are actually trying to create better and more fun workplaces. Those who adapt and change their practices and working environments may be more likely to thrive and attract workers.
Carlene M. Dean, Osakis, Minn.
Employers would do well to remember that their employees are looking for good pay, good benefits, decent hours and competent management. Your "human resources" are grown-ups and don't need to go to a day care center; although, parents have to be able make enough money to send their kids to one.
Gary F. Olson, St. Paul
It was super cute to see employees having so much fun at their job in "To keep workers, try more fun"; however, bread and butter issues remain. Boring and unsexy though they are, higher pay, a safe working environment, flexible schedules, generous benefits, good working conditions and healthy boss-to-subordinate relationships will always be more important. Typically, those in retail, the health field, elder care, day care, manufacturing/construction and hospitality demand more support due to lower pay and physical burnout. Leaders need to go above and beyond to appreciate the stress and skills of these front-line workers. (The old show "Undercover Boss" highlighted those concerns because the boss finally would "get it.")
When higher-ups start taking the future of their business seriously, by demonstrating respect and humanity for their employees, it surely will pay dividends!
Sharon E. Carlson, Andover
NEW MEDICAL LANGUAGE
Clumsy, but pointed the right way
In Matt Bai's column "Paging Dr. Orwell: This newspeak sounds ungood" (Opinion Exchange, Nov. 6), he goes to great lengths mocking the efforts of the American Medical Association and the Association of American Medical Colleges in trying to clarify pedagogic language used to teach medical students about the impact of discrimination on the health of communities. I admit their efforts are somewhat clumsy, but their intent seems to be to avoid unfairly characterizing people and to reinsert actors into the act of discrimination instead of using the passive voice. What is remarkable is his statement that "all repressive movements start by mandating versions of history and their own lists of acceptable terminology." This he directs toward two nongovernmental, voluntary associations, but in the current political context wherein a major political party's government officials are moving in state after state to mandate that the teaching in public schools of U.S. history ignore its past and present racism, oppression and genocide. That such an obvious example of what he purports to fear is left hanging while he generates an entire column about a relatively unimportant side-note tells you all you need to know about his true motivation and the seriousness of his concern about tyranny.
Timothy R. Church, St. Paul
The AMA stands accused and guilty of ignoring the two greatest health threats, the lack of universal health coverage and addiction. Cures for both of these scourges would cut into the group's bottom line.
Universal coverage would make its members' art less valuable, like a common stock to be bartered and traded and compared. They would have to unionize in order to control the market.
Using their considerable combined intellectual, financial and professional clout they could effectively counter the lies that started and maintain America's longest and most destructive world war, the war on drugs. Decriminalizing addiction would end their monopoly on the treatment of casualties and the distribution of ammunition.
Addiction is a disease that many suffer, a disease that may be genetically determined and mostly curable and certainly is as possible to endure as diabetes, multiple sclerosis or a host of other incurable diseases that plague us but do not exclude active and productive lives, valuable to families and the community.
If the AMA's medical opinions are as poor as their edicts on language and nomenclature, we are in trouble.
John Lyle Crivits, St. Paul
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