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Employee Assistance

Overview

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections contracts with OneLife Employee Assistance Program to provide Employee Assistance services for DOC staff. OneLife EAP is a well-known and highly respected provider of EAP services. They currently also provide EAP services for the Oklahoma Bar Association and Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services.

OneLife EAP has a large statewide network which will allow employees easy access to providers who can help employees find solutions to issues such as:

  • Parenting/Family Concerns
  • Emotional Stress
  • Alcohol and Drug Related Problems

Employee Guide

Critical Incidents

Oklahoma Department of Corrections employees are responsible for protecting the public by providing security of inmates committed to the Oklahoma Department of Corrections.  Despite the best professional efforts of staff, situations occur which may cause employees to experience unusually strong emotional reactions that have the potential to interfere with their ability to function. These situations are referred to as critical incidents: Grief and Loss, Stress and Debriefing, and Post Trauma Support.

Examples of critical incidents include:

  • Hostage or riot incidents
  • Catastrophic accidents
  • Inmate suicides or deaths
  • Serious injuries or deaths of employees
  • Incidents that attract unusual or critical news media coverage
  • Incidents involving the use of deadly force, serious escapes, or attempted escapes
  • Death duties

Most often, staff cope with these incidents and consider them "part of the job." The impact of a critical incident often goes unrecognized; even after normal stress reactions appear, physical and emotional stress reactions appear. Examples of these reactions are:

  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Intestinal upset
  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Flashbacks, nightmares
  • Startle reactions
  • Difficulties concentrating
  • Feelings of anger and guilt

What to Do

If you or someone you know has experienced a critical incident at work or at home, contact your supervisor or Justin Giudice at the DOC Central Human Resources Unit at 405-425-2871 for assistance.   You may also e-mail justin.giudice@doc.ok.gov.


Grief and Loss

When Loss Touches Your Life, It Is Painful, and Grief Always Follows

Loss is a normal process, with both physical and emotional signs.  But even with major life changes, such as the loss of a spouse, parent or close friend, you can face loss and move on.

After a loss, feeling sad and alone is common.

Grief Takes Many Forms

Grief isn't just about sadness. You may be in shock and just sit and stare at nothing.  Or you may have a range of intense feelings. From moment to moment, you may:
•    Not want to believe the loss is real
•    Feel annoyed or outright angry
•    Think you could have done something to stop the loss
•    Have dark, sad moods and feel hopeless or in despair
•    Feel guilty for being relieved
•    Accept that the loss is real and that you can cope

Everyone's grieving and healing happens in his or her own way. Feeling better won't happen overnight. At first it may be all you can do just to get through the day. But there is hope. Know that you will feel better with time, as long as you let yourself grieve. It hurts, but it is the normal healing process.

When to Get Help...

There is no normal length of time to grieve. But if you feel stuck and unable to move on, it may be time for professional help. Call OneLife EAP if you:

•    Can't go to work or take care of the kids
•    Can't eat or sleep normally
•    Feel your grief getting worse
•    Have repeated thoughts of suicide or of harming yourself

Helping Yourself

Do what you can to stay healthy. Reaching out for support also helps. You may find yourself asking "Why?" It's normal to seek meaning by asking questions, but there's not always an answer for loss. With time, your loss may still be part of your life, but not the only thing in it.

Take Care of Yourself

Taking good care of yourself helps your body heal from the physical signs of grief. Try to stick with healthy exercised, sleep and eating routines. What else do you need to feel better? Having family around can help you feel loved. Or you might need a walk or movie with friends to take your mind off things for a little while. Spending time with other people can help you feel better.


Stress and Debriefing

Critical Incident Stress Debriefing

Critical Incident Stress Debriefing is a confidential service using trained peer support personnel to help employees manage stress reactions to work-related incidents.

The debriefing involves a confidential, non-evaluative discussion of the involvement, thoughts, reactions, and feelings resulting from an incident. It serves to mitigate the stress impacts resulting from exposure to a critical incident through ventilation of feelings along with educational and informational components.

It is not a form of therapy or treatment. Normally, a debriefing takes place within 48 hours of the critical incident and lasts two to three hours. Additional follow-up to the debriefing can be arranged, if needed.

A Critical Incident Stress Debriefing is not an operational critique.

The Critical Incident Stress Debriefing team was created to assist corrections personnel who are experiencing normal symptoms of stress brought on by normal reactions to abnormal situations or events.

  • Corrections staff benefit from a Critical Incident Stress Debriefing because it helps:
  • Reduce stress and feelings of isolation and abnormality resulting from a critical incident.
  • Prevent the onset of delayed psychological reactions and promote well-being.
  • Provide peer support and education about stress reactions.
  • Improve coping skills for future incidents.

Supervisor's Role

All supervisors/managers are responsible for having a basic understanding of Critical Incident Stress Debriefing sufficient to recognize situations appropriate for a debriefing to initiate and support the process within their facility.

Stress Responses

Some normal stress responses to critical incidents that may indicate the need for outside help include:

  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Intestinal upset
  • Mood swings
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Depression
  • Flashbacks/nightmares
  • Startled reactions
  • Anxiety
  • Feelings of anger and guilt


Post Trauma Support

Post Traumatic Stress Reactions can occur after experiencing a traumatic incident. Sometimes emotional aftershocks (or stress reactions) appear immediately after the event or a few hours or days later; in some cases, weeks or months may pass.

Common signs and signals

  • Chills 
  • Confusion 
  • Anxiety 
  • Loss of Appetite 
  • Headaches 
  • Drinking alcohol excessively 
  • Inability to rest 
  • Using legal or illegal substances to numb consequences 
  • Guilt 
  • Withdrawing from significant others 
  • Thirst 
  • Staying away from work 
  • Nightmares 
  • Reducing the amount of leisure activities 
  • Fatigue 
  • Having unrealistic expectations 
  • Irritability 
  • Looking for easy answers 

Many symptoms will subside in frequency and intensity after a period of time as the affected person expresses his/her concerns and tries to make sense of the incident. It is critically important that reactions be dealt with openly rather than suppressing any distressing emotions.

Post Trauma Dos

  • Get plenty of rest
  • Maintain a good diet and exercise
  • Take time for yourself
  • Find and talk to supportive peers, partners and friends (Talk is the most healing medicine)
  • Expect to be bothered by the incident


Stress Management

What is Stress?

Stress may be considered as any physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension that may be a factor in its cause.

Physical and chemical factors that can cause stress include trauma, infections, toxins, illnesses, and injuries of any sort. Emotional causes of stress and tension are numerous and varied. While many people associate the term "stress" with psychological stress, scientists and physicians use this term to denote any force that impairs the stability and balance of bodily functions.

Facts About Stress

What are the symptoms of excess stress?

Manifestations of excess or poorly-managed stress can be extremely varied. While many persons report that stress induces headaches, sleep disturbances, feelings of anxiety or tension, anger, or concentration problems, others may complain of depression, lack of interest in food, increased appetite, or any number of other symptoms. In severe situations, one can experience overwhelming stress to the point of so-called "burnout" with loss of interest in normal activities. Since research has shown that high levels of stress are known to exert a negative influence on our immune systems and other medical conditions, stressed individuals can experience frequent colds or other infections and illnesses. These symptoms might not be easily recognized as being stress-related.

What can I do to manage stress better?

In general, stress is related to both external and internal factors. External factors include physical environment, job, relationships with others, home, and all the situations, challenges, difficulties, and expectations you're confronted with on a daily basis. Internal factors determine the body's ability to respond to and deal with the external stress-inducing factors. Internal factors which influence the ability to handle stress include nutritional status, overall health and fitness levels, emotional well-being, and the amount of sleep and rest.

Managing stress, therefore, can involve making changes in the external factors, or with internal factors which strengthen your ability to deal with what comes your way.

Balance is important in stress management. Example of a balanced lifestyle:
•    Creating a positive attitude
•    Developing social relationships
•    Maintaining cognitive stimulation
•    Getting regular physical activity and relaxation
•    Promoting healthy nutrition and nurturing one's belief system

Contact OneLife Employee Assistance Program to assist in your plan to manage stress. Work towards living a life that is less stressful!

Telephone: (800) 599-9544 statewide


Wellness

Individuals must assume responsibility for the quality of their lives. Informed decision making is important in order to make healthy choices. Wellness cannot be achieved without the full participation of an individual to improve his/her life. 

Good health is a priceless treasure and requires being a well-rounded individual.  Individuals must evaluate their own desired levels of health and wellness.  The agency promotes programs for proper nutrition, weight control, and positive lifestyle management. Proper nutrition and regular exercise are the best way to maintain good health and well-being. 

What is Wellness?

Wellness is a way of life—a decision which must be made on an individual basis to move forward toward optimal health and well-being.  Wellness is a developmental awareness that good health and happiness is possible through behavior modification.  By integrating the body, mind, and spirit everything you do, feel, think, or believe, impacts your state of well-being.  Wellness is the honest, unbiased acceptance of one’s self. Individuals will benefit greatly by being actively involved in their local health and wellness program.

Healthy Choices

Good health and well-being is something that may be obtained only through proper nutrition and exercise.  An individual must be willing to modify his/her behavior and lifestyle in order to achieve total wellness.

  • Positive choices for wellness include:
    - Eliminate smoking
    - Eat a balanced diet.
    - Monitor and maintain a proper weight level.
    - Get plenty of sleep or rest.
    - Eliminate alcoholic beverages.
    - Improve cardiovascular fitness.
    - Improve muscle strength and flexibility.
    - Improve personal hygiene.
  • Intellectual
    - Improve reading skills.
    - Attend special lectures or events of interest.
    - Develop a routine for studying or reading.
    - Add a new word to your vocabulary every day
    - Watch educational television
    - Read the front page of the newspaper every day.
    - Study world geography
  • Spiritual
    - Set aside time each day for thought, prayer, and meditation.
    - Join a group whose intent is to discuss spiritual well-being.
    - Identify your weaknesses and improve your behavior.
    - Identify your values and expand upon your beliefs.
    - Be willing to accept different perspectives.
  • Emotional
    - Learn to recognize your feelings.
    - Learn to express your feelings.
    - Learn to deal with anger and depression.
    - Don’t be afraid to seek professional counseling or help.
    - Relieve tension and stress with appropriate relaxation.
  • Social
    - Display affection toward loved ones.
    - Be less critical toward friends and family.
    - Be consistent in fulfilling responsibilities to others.
    - Communicate effectively with friends and family.
    - Overcome fears of public speaking.
    - Do not be afraid to smile.
    - Take on a new hobby.
    - Attend an adult educational class concerning that new hobby.
    - Ask your Wellness Coordinator to help you feel better with ideas for health improvement.

 Health and Wellness Resource
• State Wellness Program


Eldercare

Many employees are now finding themselves faced with care giving responsibilities for aging parents, spouses, or other loved ones.

Eldercare or caring for aging parents affects millions of baby boomers who are turning 50 at a rapid pace. Additionally, in today’s mobile society, employees are more likely to be living far from the aging parent who now needs their help. When faced with care giving responsibilities, it can be very difficult to sift through the voluminous information available and obtain specific information to get the help needed when it is needed.

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections is committed to identifying resources and providing information to help employees address this issue.

HOTLINES
Ombudsman and Senior Info Line 1-800-211-2116 or 405-521-6734 (OKC) to help improve quality of life and quality of care for older citizens

A LIST OF HELPFUL LINKS:
Medicare - www.medicare.gov
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Administration on Aging – http://www.aoa.gov
National Caregiver Association – http://www.caregiver.com
Area-wide Aging Agency – http://www.areawideaging.org


Caregiver Resources

Helpful information designed for employees who are caregivers

Wives, husbands, sisters, brothers, adult children, grandchildren, and in-laws often provide family care for older persons. Grandparents are raising grandchildren when they expected to retire. Under the Older Americans Act, family caregivers are now recognized as providing the majority of long-term care in America.

Caregivers need to take time off, before they endanger their own health. Time to care for personal needs, to visit family or friends, to run errands, to take a short vacation or a nap. Respite care is a temporary break from long and arduous care-giving duties, and respite vouchers help caregivers pay someone who has temporarily taken their place as a care provider. To apply, caregivers call the toll-free Oklahoma Area-Wide Services Information System (OASIS) at 1-800-42-OASIS (1-800-426-2747). OASIS is a statewide information and referral assistance program, which serves as a clearinghouse for grandparent information and requests for caregiver respite vouchers.

Balancing Work and Caregiving - What You Should Know

More than 22 million Americans are caregivers for their parents or older relatives, and most are working full or part time. Adult children caring for older parents face problems like those above every day. Work is a financial necessity and/or a source of satisfaction for many, yet the responsibilities of caregiving and doing well on the job often conflict. People who want to do both well can be caught in the middle.

The following tips present an overview of the issues for employees and employers. Ideas and resources are available to help you manage your responsibilities efficiently and balance both your roles more effectively.

  • Each working caregiver’s job is different. If you are uncomfortable raising this issue with your supervisor, look in the operations procedures and find out your options, benefits and services in OP-110355 entitled "Procedures for Employee Attendance and Leave".
  • Ask your Human Resource Management Specialist for information on the Family and Medical Leave Act.
  • Offer to work a less desirable shift or be willing to make up time taken for caregiving by working days or shifts when most people want to be off. This flexibility on your part shows your employer that you are committed to your job.
  • Avoid mixing work with caregiving. If you need to make phone calls for information related to your parents’ needs, do it on a lunch break or other non-work time.
  • Manage your time well. When you must take time off for caregiving, set priorities and accomplish the most important things first. Delegate responsibilities when you can. Pace yourself; don’t do so much in one area that you can’t be effective in another.
  • Get all the support you can from family members, friends, and community resources.
  • Take care of your own needs. Pay attention to your health; get enough sleep and exercise regularly. Fun is also important. Take a break when the pressure gets too great. Talk with someone about your feelings and needs. This could be a member of the Human Resources EAP staff, clergy or a professional counselor.
  • Talk with your supervisor about your caregiving issues. It’s better to know the reasons for your late arrivals or seeming preoccupation rather than to draw his or her own conclusions.
  • Be sure to thank those at work for the consideration and assistance you receive. Perhaps you can agree to take on an extra assignment or special project when you do have time, or help another who may have heavy family or other responsibilities.