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History of EAP

Since 1917, employee assistance programs (EAPs) have provided support and assistance to employees who have work performance problems that result from some type of personal problem.

R.M. Macy and Co. and the Northern State Power Company were the first to recognize the need and to establish EAPs. Most EAPs began in the 1940s with employer concerns about alcoholism among white-collar workers. Gradually these programs evolved and began treating mental, emotional, and financial problems, and those problems caused by alcohol and drug use.

The tremendous growth in EAPs, however, began in the early 1970s. In 1972, the Occupational Programs Office of the Federal Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism offered federal grants to help increase the number of programs (BNA Special Report - 1987).

The first EAP in New York State was initiated in April 1976 at nine worksites within the Mid- Hudson region of the New York State Department of Mental Hygiene. Funding for this pilot project was provided by a grant from the New York State Division of Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse to the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA). The program provided referral, education, training, and follow-up activities for employees. During its first 15 months of operation, 1,800 individuals were served.

During the next five years, the EAP concept spread rapidly to many other departments and agencies, including: Correctional Services, Law, Audit and Control, Office of General Services, Labor, and the State University. By 1982, more than 12,000 State employees and their families had received referrals from local EAP Coordinators. At that time, it was estimated that more than 15,000 would be assisted annually once the EAP network was fully operating in all State agencies. In fact, as of the end of 1996, more than 35,000 referrals per year were occuring, plus an additional 60,000 contacts for information and follow up.

A commitment to the program was solidified in 1983 when New York State, CSEA, PEF, UUP, and Council 82 of AFSCME formed the Statewide Employee Assistance Program to oversee the growth of this initiative.

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