MILWAUKEE, Wis. – It’s said that great things come in small packages, and that was definitely the case at the Greater Wisconsin EAPA Chapter’s 28th Annual Conference on Employee Assistance, held April 27-28 at the Best Western Airport Hotel & Convention Center in Milwaukee. There were more than 100 attendees (up from last year), but the keynotes and breakout sessions, in my opinion, were as good as larger conferences in the EA field.

Below are a few of the highlights:

DAY ONE – Sex, Drugs and Rock N’ Roll: The Biology of Addiction was the topic of the opening keynote, presented by David Mays, MD, PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Mays explained how human biology mediates our addictions and why addictive behavior is so puzzling and difficult to manage.

It All Starts with Food was led by Retired Col. Frank Alvarez, CEO of Frankly Nutritious. “If components are missing and/or of inferior quality, think the Three Little Pigs here, you will not reach your potential in all areas of your life,” said Alvarez. “The fix is simple and easy; nutrition.”

Stephanie Bellin, a wellness trainer with ThedaCare at Work, presented Reasonable Suspicion. “The training [also] gives you skills and tools needed to handle a situation in which an employee might be under the influence of drugs or alcohol,” she said.

Raising Awareness of Your EAP was presented by Michael Jacquart, editor, writer, and communications strategist. “What is an EAP? What does an EAP do? These questions are asked much too often, at least partly due to EAPs not doing enough to market themselves and their services,” he stated.

Legal Considerations for Employee Assistance Professionals was led by Carrie Joshi and Robin Sheridan, attorneys with the law firm Hall, Render, Kilian, Heath & Lyman, P.C. Areas they discussed included leaves of absence, accommodation obligations for disabled employees, acting as an employer consultant, confidentiality (including exceptions) and telehealth. “Second opinions are allowed under the FMLA, but employers should not be asking you for it,” Sheridan said.

DAY TWO – Leading an Intentional Culture was the topic of the keynote, presented by Lee Bouche, CEAP and president of Bouche Consulting, LLC. Workplace culture is more than a written statement of mission and values hung on the wall for employees to see, according to Bouche. “It is living and evolving within the organization and needs to be intentionally led to achieve desired organizational results.”

Michael Goldman, CEAP, Goldman Training and Consultation, led Helping EAPs Advocate for Employees who are on the Autism Spectrum Disorder. Among other areas, Goldman presented case studies, suggestions for supporting individuals with ASD, the EAP’s role to employers, and examples of organizations that embrace inclusion.

Many thanks for the great job by the conference committee: Chuck Austin, We Energies; Kelly Nies, ThedaCare at Work; Nancy Lynn Smith, Magellan Healthcare; and Lori Wessel, Holy Family Memorial EAP. ….. NOTE: The pictures in this post are NOT from this conference.