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Employee Assistance Programs


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Employee Assistance Programs


Employee assistance programs (EAPs) are one of the most effective ways to deal with alcohol and other drug problems in the workplace. They can enhance the work climate of an organization and promote the health and well-being of everyone involved.

EAPs are usually multifaceted programs designed to assist employees with personal problems that affect their job performance. Although some EAPs focus primarily on alcohol and other drug problems, most EAPs address a wide range of employee problems: stress, marital difficulties, financial trouble, and legal problems. Most EAPs offer a range of services: employee education (on-site or off-site), individual and organizational assessment, counseling, and referrals to treatment. EAPs can also train supervisors for your program. In general, the more comprehensive the services, the more the EAP provider will charge for them.

Types and Costs of EAPs

EAPs come in a variety of shapes and sizes and the cost will vary accordingly. Factors include the types of services provided, the number of employees, the type of industry, regulatory requirements, drug testing policy, location, and family coverage. Just as an example, the chart below indicates average costs for an EAP in the Washington, DC, area.

Annual EAP Costs per Number of Company Employees

Number of Employees Cost Range Cost Mean Number of Employees Cost Range Cost Mean
More than 5,000 $14-25 $20.29 100-250 $24-60 $32.70
1,000-5,000 $17-39 $20.42 26-100 $29-75 $36.70
500-1,000 $21-36 $25.00 Fewer than 25 $30-100 $50.00
250-500 $23-45 $27.31 Consortium $10-25 $18.00
Estimates are from Corporations Against Drug Abuse, a Washington, DC, consortium and nonprofit organization.

Types of EAPS:

"As a manager, I believe there are many benefits of an EAP. One of the first changes I noticed was an improvement in employee attitudes. Over time, patterns of tardiness and absenteeism have lessened, and I’ve noted an improvement in coworker and customer relationships. It’s been 2 years since we implemented the EAP, and we’ve also begun to see a decrease in benefit dollars spent. Workers are sick or late less often, our accident rate has decreased, we have fewer Workers’ Comp. claims, and our overall health care utilization has been reduced."

Manager, large retail corporation

"In a big company, when an employee has a drug or alcohol problem that affects his or her work, other employees can usually take up the slack. In my company of 10 people, if one employee is unproductive because of alcohol or other drugs, my business suffers. I can’t afford to lose time and money due to an employee’s drug problem; but hiring and training a new employee can be expensive. I joined an EAP consortium, and now I can afford to offer my employees help."

Owner, computer graphics company

Internal/In-House Programs.

These are most often found in large companies with substantial resources. The EAP staff is employed by the organization and works on-site with employees.

Fixed-Fee Contracts.

Employers contract directly with an EAP provider for a variety of services, e.g., counseling, employee assessment, and educational programs. Fees are usually based on the number of employees and remain the same regardless of how many employees use the EAP.

Fee-for-Service Contracts.

Employers contract directly with an EAP provider, but pay only when employees use the services. Because this system requires employers to make individual referrals (rather than employees self-referring), care must be taken to protect employee confidentiality.


An EAP consortium generally consists of smaller employers who join together to contract with an EAP service provider. The consortium approach helps to lower the cost per employee.

Peer-Based Programs.

Less common than conventional EAPs, peer- or coworker-based EAPs give education and training, assistance to troubled employees, and referrals -- all through peers and coworkers. This type of program requires considerable education and training for employees.

Benefits of EAPs

Employee assistance programs offer a variety of benefits:

  • They can assist with policy development, employee education, and supervisor training.
  • They can take the pressure off supervisors and managers, who feel responsible when employees’ personal problems affect job performance.
  • They offer an alternative to firing, thereby saving the costs of recruiting, rehiring, and retraining.
  • They offer access to treatment for employees with problems that affect their job performance.
  • They have been linked to decreases in accidents, Workers’ Compensation claims, absenteeism, health benefit utilization, and turnover rates.
  • They can assist employers in complying with drug-free workplace laws.

Finding a Qualified EAP Provider

EAP Professional Associations

The first step in implementing an EAP is to find a qualified service provider. Currently there are no national licensure programs for EAP providers, although several States are considering such programs. Two professional associations, the Employee Assistance Professionals Association (EAPA) and the Employee Assistance Society of North America (EASNA), have developed certification procedures for EAP providers. The Certified Employee Assistance Professional (CEAP) credential indicates satisfactory knowledge about addictions, intervention, and related skills. For a fee, EAPA and EASNA can also provide directories of EAP providers by area or region.

EASNA (810) 545-3888
EAPA (703) 522-6272

Other Ways To Locate EAP Services

"I was afraid the EAP would require us to set up a prepackaged program that would cost a lot of money. Instead we worked out a program where employees can receive three sessions for assessment and short-term counseling. Then, if the problem is more serious, the EAP will refer the employee to an appropriate treatment program in the community."
Manager, printing company

A variety of options are available for identifying EAP services. These options include contacting organizations that describe themselves as EAPs and contacting other sources of health care. Consider the following possibilities:
  • Join with other employers and contract with an EAP provider. Consult the Yellow Pages (look under "employee assistance programs" or "drug abuse information and treatment centers"), contact your chamber of commerce or trade association, or call CSAP’s Workplace Helpline at 1-800-WORKPLACE.
  • Call local hospitals and ask about available EAP services.
  • Contact a health maintenance organization (HMO) that provides alcohol and other drug abuse treatment services and ask about EAP possibilities.
  • Contact a local mental health or substance abuse professional in private practice and negotiate a contract for EAP services.
  • Inquire if insurance carriers cover EAP services or can help to identify local or regional EAP providers.
  • Talk with other employers who have successful EAPs.

Questions To Ask

Not every EAP will be right for every organization. To determine whether or not a particular EAP will be able to meet your specific needs, ask the EAP provider the following questions:
  • Do the staff members who will be assigned to my organization hold the CEAP credential?
  • Do members of your staff belong to a professional EAP association?
  • What is the education level of each member of your staff?
  • Do you have references that we can contact?
  • Do you provide on-site employee education and supervisor training services?
  • What cost/fee programs do you offer?
  • Will you do on-site visits? Are you able to conduct a needs assessment of our organization?
  • What types of counseling services are available to employees? How many sessions?
  • How easy will it be for employees to use the EAP? Where and how often is the EAP available to employees?
  • To which programs and services do you make referrals—and why?
  • Does the EAP have a system for evaluating the effectiveness of the program?

Checklist for Starting an EAP

___ Secure support and endorsement for the idea from top managers.

___ Review financial resources and determine a budget for the EAP.

___ Identify the organization’s rationale and goals for the EAP. What needs do you want the EAP to meet?

___ Identify and select a service provider that is right for your organization.

___ Write an EAP policy and procedures statement and distribute it to all employees.

___ Schedule a meeting with employees to answer questions and discuss the services available from the EAP.

___ Arrange for periodic program evaluation to take an objective look at the EAP’s operation and performance. For example: How many employees are using the EAP? How many are self-referred versus those who are referred by supervisors? What services are being provided? What benefits have resulted from the EAP?



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