The Mesquite Online News - Texas A&M University-San Antonio

Employee Assistance Program available to university employees

Deer Oaks provides employee assistance benefits for all faculty, staff and student workers at Texas A&M University-San Antonio. Central offices are located 126 E Main Plaza. Photo by Nicole West

By Tawseef Ali

The university has updated its three year agreement with Deer Oaks to provide employee assistance benefits for all faculty, staff and student workers.

Deer Oaks is a nationwide behavioral health organization which helps A&M-San Antonio employees improve quality of life and maximize work efficiency.

Tarik Esquerra, assistant director of benefits and training, said that A&M-San Antonio’s extended agreement with Deer Oaks is beneficial to the institution.

“More services, less cost,” Esquerra said.

The new agreement, renewed last month, ends Sept. 1, 2016 with a chance to extend until Aug. 31, 2019.

This year, the Texas A&M System requested a proposal to bid out for Employee Assistance Programs (EAP).

Esquerra personally recommended Deer Oaks’ EAP to the A&M System Benefits Administration, which oversees employee benefits of all members in the A&M System.

In September, Deer Oaks was also awarded a system-wide contract, less expensive than the one A&M-San Antonio signed.

The new A&M-San Antonio agreement allows this institution to pay 90 cents per employee, per month. It also offers increased on-site training and increased counselling sessions for employees.

Esquerra said A&M-San Antonio spends an estimated $384 per month on Deer Oaks’ EAP, aimed at improving the efficiency of the university’s employees.

Deer Oaks representatives briefed the university during last month’s open staff meeting, referred to internally as “War Room.”

“We invited them to War Room because of the new system contract,” Esquerra said.

Deer Oaks now provides the institution with a total of 20 hours in training per year, 12 hours on site in relation to wellness and supervisory training, and eight hours of legal and financial training off site.

In the past, Deer Oaks has provided depression and stress relief trainings as well as credit management and identity theft/protection training.

Between January and June of this year less than 4 percent of university employees used EAP services, Esquerra said.

Carolyn Knowles, senior account manager at Deer Oaks, explained that all household members as well as college students living away from home are entitled to these benefits.

Employees are introduced to Deer Oaks services during a seven-minute employment training orientation video, which introduces employees to services.

When an employee logs into the EAP system, a range of category links including, but not limited to, aging and parenting, balancing work, health and life issues guide the user toward a range of services.

Services provided to university employees include:
Counseling Assessments
Referrals Prevention and education resources
Crisis intervention
Legal services
Financial services
Will preparation
Identity theft issues
Work/life issues
Any other kind of referrals

EAP Services are provided all year long, any time of day. A full list of services can be found here.

For assistance, live online chat is available to direct individuals.

Knowles said Deer Oaks can help with legal forms and document templates for contracted jobs around the house or other aspects in life. She also added these consultations were limited to five per issue.

Esquerra added that the consultations increased from three to five with the new agreement in September.

We offer “30 minute consultations on each issue,” Knowles said.

Knowles recommends using the “live information system,” to present questions or comments to Deer Oaks. The informational session is offered online on the third wednesday of each month.

EAP services are provided to all A&M-San Antonio employees so “employees don’t have to do a lot of footwork,” says Esquerra.

About the Author

Syed Tawseef Ali
Syed Tawseef Ali is the Public Editor of The Mesquite. A native of Bangladesh, his role is to act as a readers' representative and answer questions about student media and content coverage. His "behind the story" column allows readers to see inside the newsroom to learn about the business of student-produced journalism. Ali joined the campus media outlet in Fall 2012 as a campus news intern and was promoted to Opinion Editor in Spring 13. Ali received his associate's degree from Northwest Vista College in the fall of 2011. His goal is to pursue a career in interactive radio broadcasting. He has interned with NOWCast San Antonio and is currently searching for paid employment to support his education.

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