FORT RUCKER, Ala. (October 17, 2013) -- While the government shutdown continues, so do the stresses and financial burdens within the federal workforce, but a helping hand is available through the Fort Rucker Employee Assistance Program.

The program is designed to provide Department of the Army or non-appropriated fund civilian employees and Family members the opportunity to address any problem that is or could impact their duty performance, according to Jesse Hunt, EAP coordinator.

The EAP is a civilian-run program that deals with issues from relationships, alcohol and drug abuse, to issues that are health-related, marital, emotional, behavioral or financial.

"Most of the issues that I deal with are relationship issues -- coworkers not getting a long and that sort of thing," said Hunt. "It can be an issue because if you don't work well together or just don't get a long, it can occupy your mind to the point that productivity is affected."

During times of fiscal uncertainty, however, it might be more than just coworkers affecting productivity, but the added stress and anxiety that comes with uncertainty. That's where the EAP comes in, said Hunt.

"I think right now, especially with the changes going on, the EAP is a wonderful program," added Jeanetta Sheppard, Army Substance Abuse Program clinical program manager. "It's something that can help people deal with some of these stresses and identify resources that may be able to help them during this time."

Identifying resources isn't the only thing the program provides. It also provides assessment, problem solving, coaching, information, consultation, counseling, resource identification, referral and support. The result is improved productivity, morale and employee motivation.

One of the first and most basic steps Hunt said that he utilizes is to just let the person talk and vent.

"Sometimes people just need to vent," he said. "While they are venting, people tend to put their issues in some sort of orderly perspective, and if not, I'll help them put it in some sort of order."

Hunt said that just talking out an issue can help reduce stress levels significantly, and help a person see what the root of the issue might be.

From there, the person is provided with steps and recommendations they need to take to start to remedy the situation, but Hunt said it's completely up to the individual whether they take the advice or not.

"If you want this program to be successful, you've got to be the one to get on the stick and make some changes to your life," he said.

The program normally consists of six visits, but Hunt said he won't limit the number of times people can visit with him.

"I'll talk to people as long as they need because sometimes people just need someone to talk to," he said. "The issues that they have can be like carrying around a sack of bricks, and sometimes it's nice to just get some of those bricks out (to lighten the load)."

From the assessments, Hunt can decide whether a person might need additional services and can make referrals to professionals who are trained to identify and deal with their specific need.

The program is no cost to civilian employees and sessions are completely confidential in accordance with state and federal laws.

"This is a great option that people have, and hopefully we can assess the needs of people here on the installation and get them connected," said Sheppard. "There are some great resources out there that can help people get through these (uncertain times), and the EAP is a great point of contact for that."

For more information or to make an appointment, call 255-7678.