IOC’s new counselling service replaces 20-year old program

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Counselling services at IOC have been outsourced to Homewood Human Solutions which replaced the previous Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP) which served Labrador West for over 20 years.

A new counselling service is underway for employees of the Iron Ore Company of Canada.

The new provider, Homewood Human Solutions based in Vancouver, will replace the previous Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP) which served Labrador West for over 20 years.

Homewood Human Solutions is an independent company that has been in the EFAP business for 33 years, servicing a million employees and specializing in addiction and mental health.

Kari Plaster, vice-president of human resources for IOC and based in Montreal, said the switch was to give each employee the same opportunities.

“We have employees not just in Lab. City, but also Montreal and Sept-Îles. All those employees needed to be provided with the same scope and breadth across the business.”

IOC previously had different services provided from different companies, depending on where an employee was located.

An expansion of specialized services will be provided, including stress management; financial counselling; nutritional counselling including health-related options like smoking cessation or weight management; childcare and parenting; elder and family care; and legal counselling and advice.

Clients will also have more options for care. Employees and their families can now access service by telephone, e-counselling in a private and secured chat room, by email, or through an online resources library on a global database. Face-to- face counselling is still available.

Plaster said the change was not a reflection on the quality of service that was being offered, but to broaden the services.

“The folks that were doing that, those ladies have done an incredible job. We want to provide (clients) with the same quality care they received in the previous regime; only we want to do that with expanded service and accessibility.”

Clients can also specify preferences such as locations, meeting times, and more, Plaster said.

“You may be a person not comfortable if your situation is gender-specific, so you may not want to talk to a particular gender. So you can specify who you’d prefer to speak with.”

Currently two counselors in Labrador West are partnered with the new EFAP program, with a location in place to meet. However, a client has the option to arrange a different location.

“We’re trying to make sure employees get what they need,” Plaster said. “We’ve already had two community-based incidents where we have actually taken a couple of those people, as well as flown some people in to immediately help with family crisis issues both in Lab City and in Sept-Îles.”

An employee or their family member accesses the service by telephone to begin the process. From there, arrangements are made based on the required service.

A client seeking help with an eating disorder, for example, would get help both for the psychological and physical aspects. Arrangements would be made with a nutrition coach, working with the employee to manage their diet and exercise, and put them on a specific program and correspond with the client through telephone or email. The client would also be put in contact with a counselor, with the client’s preferred choice of phone, email, e-counseling, or in person. The company is also working on a video counseling solution, where the counselor and the client each stream live video.

Clients with specific issues are put in touch with specialists, who would have a minimum of a Master’s Degree in their field.

“If someone had a newborn, and had some issues or problems concerning their baby, they could talk with a nurse coach,” Plaster said. “If you wanted to talk to someone specifically about elder care for your parent, they have specialists. They also have specific tools for career development.”

For long-term solutions, a referral will be made to a long-term counselor. If there is no one available to provide the upfront psychological aspect in Labrador West and a referral is required, the specialist who evaluates the psychological side would make the call. Specialists may even be flown in to Labrador West, depending on the situation.

“Once you're connected with that person, if that person can’t resolve the issue, they have the responsibility to refer you to someone who can.”

Plaster said the change was in no way financially motivated.

“Are we able to leverage better pricing by accessing global providers across our entire business? Well there's no question to that, we can. But we certainly would not have gone with the solution that was cheaper that provided worse services. It wasn't to save money.”

Plaster said the changeover was not quick and abrupt, and efforts were made for a seamless switch.

“In the transition time window we asked one of the providers from the old program to be the continuity person to provide transitional services for a certain amount of time while the other program was coming online.”

The provider was asked to help anyone in the process of counseling, and arrangements were made between the current EFAP provider and Homewood Human Solutions.

IOC is maintaining confidentiality with employee files by hiring Iron Mountain, an independent company specialized with organizing and reducing the risks associated with information protection.

“IOC doesn’t want to be in the business of handling these records. We want them to be at arms length; they’re not ours.”

Employees who wish to obtain their file can do so by request, by signing a release form and picking it up. Iron Mountain can also be the custodian of the files, or if a new counselor has been found the client can release the files to them.

IOC employees and family members can utilize the service by phoning 1-800-663-1142, or for French speaking assistance, 1-866-398-9505. All services are voluntary and confidential.

Organizations: IOC, Homewood Human Solutions, Iron Ore Company of Canada.The Iron Mountain

Geographic location: Labrador West, Montreal, Sept-Îles Vancouver Lab

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