Press-Republican

February 6, 2013

County may get employee-help program

By LOHR McKINSTRY
Press-Republican

---- — ELIZABETHTOWN — State and county workers in Essex County could get services soon from a local office of the State Employee Assistance Program.

County officials have agreed to work on a sharing agreement that would give local program representative James Monty an office in the County Public Safety Building in exchange for providing the program for county employees, as well as state workers.

“In Essex County, there is no group that knows the resources better than Essex County,” Monty said. “I would help train coordinators at the county level and help them find the resources they need to help the employees of Essex County.”

He said the Employee Assistance Program has been shown to reduce overtime, sick time, accidents and Worker’s Compensation claims.

It’s a confidential program, but they are not counselors, he said.

“We point them in a direction to seek help. We’re neutral. We do not represent management; we do not represent them (workers).”

‘TRYING TIMES’

County Board of Supervisors Chair Randy Douglas (D-Jay) said it sounds like the program could be beneficial for Essex County.

“These are trying times. People are going through emotional times, tough financial times.”

Douglas said he believes they can reach an agreement with Monty.

“Are you going to man this office every day?” Supervisor Ronald Moore (R-North Hudson) asked Monty at a meeting of the County Board of Supervisors.

Monty said he’s on the road three days a week, but an unpaid county coordinator could be there daily.

“During my time (with the state), we had a couple very serious crises, and the programs helped us,” Moore said.

PRECEDENT SET

The county currently provides free space in the County Courthouse for a satellite office for Assemblyman Dan Stec (R-Queensbury), and the State Police have quarters in the Public Safety Building for which they pay rent, so there’s a precedent for such a reciprocal agreement, Supervisor Roby Politi (R-North Elba) said.

“If they (the Assistance Program) were willing to pay for their own phone lines and Internet access, it would be a benefit,” County Manager Daniel Palmer said.

Douglas said they’ll work on an agreement and bring it to the Board of Supervisors at a future meeting.

The State Employee Assistance Program helps employees who have mental, emotional and financial issues and problems caused by alcohol and drug use. A peer-assistance program, it is jointly sponsored by labor and management.

Email Lohr McKinstry: lmckinstry@pressrepublican.com