Back in the late ’80s, forestry companies and labour organizations on upper Vancouver Island came together with a common goal. They realized healthy people make healthy employees and companies, but health and safety isn’t just about hard hats and protective equipment. So, they decided to provide a unique program to better support their employees and family members.
They created a private, non-profit society — now known as Upper Island Counselling — to offer an employee and family assistance program (EFAP), including counselling services. The non-profit would be governed by a voluntary board of directors consisting of representatives from member companies.
“The model was really unheard of back in 1987,” said Kelsi Baine, a professional registered counsellor at Upper Island Counselling. “It’s still incredibly rare to have a non-profit society that offers an EFAP.”
Baine, who is also the executive director, spoke about the importance of their model.
“We are owned and operated in our communities by those we serve,” she said. “We help our members and their employees with health and wellness, and in turn they have a stake in and care about the sustainability of our programming.”
One of their members, Karl Ebdrup, is a great example.
He runs a large auto group that has used Upper Island Counselling services for over 15 years, paying a reasonable monthly fee based on their number of employees.
“Immediately when I took over ownership of the six dealerships, I thought Upper Island Counselling was a great tool,” he said.
The auto group’s member package includes accessible counselling services for staff that are kept completely confidential — Ebdrup just receives reports showing how many people are using the services. However, Ebdrup said many of his employees dealing with personal tragedies have taken it upon themselves to thank him for making the counselling freely available through work.
“Most people don’t have an extra couple hundred bucks just to go and speak to someone,” he said.
After a few years, Ebdrup even used the counselling services himself.
Times got tough, so he went to speak with a counsellor a few times and got “first-hand knowledge of what they really do for folks.”
“It helped me focus my energies on work when I needed to focus on work and focus on myself when I needed to do that,” he said.
He believes in Upper Island Counselling so much, he added, that he’s in the process of nominating someone from their staff to sit on the board of directors.
“It’s a good opportunity for us to give back to the program.”
Beyond providing direct access to counselling for employees, Upper Island Counselling also offers consultation for supporting management with employee issues.
“Sometimes employers are faced with an issue that is out of their wheelhouse, so they might call us and they know they’ve got a counsellor in their corner, which provides a lot of peace of mind,” Baine said.
Other services included in member packages are:
- trauma and critical incident response;
- educational health and wellness presentations and workshops; and
- worksite visits and awareness presentations to promote and personalize the EFAP.
To learn more about support for your workplace, your family or yourself, or to request an appointment, visit Upper Island Counselling online at www.uics.ca/contact. You can also visit the non-profit in person in Campbell River or Comox, or call 250-287-2266.