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County counseling program sees low usage
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County employees have access to a host of free counseling and aid services, but many may not even be aware of the resources at their fingertips.

The county Board of Commissioners will vote at the Sept. 8 meeting on continuing the Families First employee assistance program, which offers services such as counseling for marital and family issues, alcohol and drug abuse, emotional problems, and aid in communication and coping skills. The program will cost the county $18.50 per employee for about 850 employees. In return, the county will receive about $60,000 discount on its end of health insurance costs. The idea is similar to the discount offered on car insurance for taking a driver’s safety class, said county spokesperson Holly Lafontaine.

The program has been in place since 2005, but currently only 3 percent of employees a year use the services, said Human Resources Deputy Director Janet Rutledge.

"We are constantly letting employees know it’s out there," said Rutledge, adding that there was a monthly newsletter sent out with information about it.

"I think it just needs a better marketing plan," said Commissioner JaNice Van Ness.

"A lot of people are reluctant to use EAP program for personal reasons," said Commissioner Oz Nesbitt. He pointed out some pastors say they have difficulty getting people to take advantage of their counseling services within a church. "One of the hardest things people can do is ask for help."