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Policies and benefits

Help through agency’s Employee
Assistance Program just a phone call away

By Oliver Bell, TBCJ member

portrait of Oliver Bell
Oliver Bell
TBCJ member
At some point in time, in today’s fast-paced society, each of us will be faced with concerns or problems. These problems could affect our lives, both personally and professionally. The affects could be positive or negative. Some of us will feel comfortable resolving these challenges personally. Others of us will feel much more comfortable if someone is available to help us think through the issues and resolve the problems. Understanding the importance of resolving these situations positively before they escalate, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) Employee Assistance Program (EAP) offers valuable assistance to its employees and their families.

The TDCJ initiated the EAP in the 1990s to provide its employees with a resource to help them cope with the stress and demands of life and work in the criminal justice arena. The TDCJ EAP is currently administered through a contract with Alliance Work Partners (AWP), a private, non-profit organization of experienced, licensed and/or certified counselors. AWP counselors are available to assist TDCJ employees free of charge through a toll-free 24-hour help line. Depending on the employee’s needs, counseling is provided by phone or face-to-face. AWP is an independent organization. All TDCJ employee communication with AWP representatives and counselors is strictly confidential and is not shared with the agency or the employee’s co-workers.

To contact AWP, just pick up a phone. AWP offers assistance to help employees find solutions for personal and behavioral challenges that can affect work performance, relationships, and an individual’s well-being. Those challenges can include physical illness; mental and emotional distress, such as depression, grief and stress; marital and family problems; eating disorders; alcohol and drug use, abuse and addiction; legal matters; and financial difficulties.

AWP counselors provide assistance through assessments, guidance, crisis intervention, community resources and referrals, as well as follow-up services. The counselors make special efforts to use AWP internal resources when possible. However, if outside treatment is necessary, the counselors will explore other alternatives with the employee. With access to a database of 8,000 community resources, they will also work with the employee’s medical plan, various insurance plans, and local referrals to find appropriate assistance that is within the employee’s financial means.
For general inquiries call 888-EAP-INFO. To speak to a counselor call 800-343-3822. EAP Teen line call 800-334-TEEN. TDD for the hearing impaired. 800-448-1823. Servicos espanol disponibles.

Through the EAP, counseling services are available to all full and part-time employees, their spouse/partner, children/grandchildren age 25 or under, and divorced spouse/partner. Services are also available to employees who have been laid-off or terminated along with their spouse/partner and children/grandchildren for up to six months from the lay-off/termination date. All a TDCJ employee has to do to use this service is to call in on the toll-free line.

Legal and financial assistance are available through AWP LawAccess. This program offers a nationwide network of legal and financial specialists, licensed attorneys, CPAs and certified dispute mediators. Employees can receive specialized legal consultation by phone or in person, with the first 30-minute in-person visit being free of charge. After that first visit, if an employee decides to work with the attorney, a discount of up to 25 percent is applied to the attorney’s standard rate. Financial assistance is also available to employees on a number of financial matters, including retirement planning, investment strategies and income tax preparation. These consultations are conducted by phone, and the calls average about 30 minutes. If extensive issues require additional assistance, a discounted cost will be discussed with the employee. An online library service is also available for both legal and financial matters. TDCJ employees can access literally thousands of helpful articles and documents that cover a wide variety of topics through this online service.

In addition to one-on-one counseling, the AWP can provide Training and Critical Incident Debriefings to TDCJ employees. This past year, AWP and the TDCJ Human Resources Division developed a specialized training course on “job burnout.” This course was successfully presented at several facilities across the state. Through Critical Incident Debriefings, worksite intervention can be provided to a group of employees who are experiencing stress and trauma induced by a crisis that has impacted the work group. These debriefings are available to all TDCJ facilities and offices as needed, or within 24 hours of a traumatic event. AWP has helped a number of TDCJ employees through these debriefings and it has provided much appreciated assistance to TDCJ-established critical incident teams.

With the resolution of personal and behavior challenges, an individual’s professional and personal life can become more productive and more fulfilling. TDCJ employees and their families are fortunate to have the opportunity to face those challenges with the help of the EAP. It’s a resource that is always available to you. Just pick up a phone and call the toll-free number if you feel this resource can help you or your family.

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