Winter can be tough. After a fun-filled holiday season, there can come a little letdown. Or maybe the holidays weren’t so fun-filled. Shorter days and colder temperatures combined with higher heating costs and mounting bills also can take a toll physically and mentally. An unexpected expense or life event can make a tough situation even tougher.
Many people carry these burdens silently, afraid to ask for help. The strain of making ends meet makes it difficult to focus on work and productivity decreases. Absenteeism increases as an employee misses work to handle problems at home. Stress also can lead to a weakened immune system and poor health, so increases in sick days are likely, too.
You might see someone struggling at work, but are unsure what to do. Resources are available to help individuals and families and reduce financial burdens and mental strains. The stigma associated with applying for supplemental benefits can act as a deterrent for many people, however.
Awareness and encouragement by employers can reduce stigma and increase the use of needed services. There are ways to offer information and support that protect privacy and create a culture that supports employee wellness:
- Host a lunch-and-learn event that offers information about a variety of resources. Mesa County Public Health recently held an event to offer information about an employee assistance program. A staff member who’d used the EAP provided the introduction, sharing how beneficial the program had been for her and her family. This simple introduction created an atmosphere of understanding and support.
- Employee websites offer a great resource. Does your organization maintain an internal website for staff? If so, provide phone numbers and links for assistance programs.
- Bathroom stalls provide a private space to place posters with phone numbers for those seeking assistance. Consider placing posters or brochures in break rooms.
Many resources are available in Mesa County that offer assistance to individuals and families. While not an exhaustive list, consider the following resources:
- Western Colorado 211: Not sure where to start? Dial 211 and you’re connected to a free, confidential information and referral service for health and human services. Western Colorado 211 can help find assistance for child care, dental and medical services, financial support, food, home health services and transportation. You can also visit the website at wc211.org.
- Employee assistance programs: If your company offers an EAP, this is a great resource to promote to staff. Programs offer counseling, financial and legal education, life coaching and stress management. These services remain confidential and provide support when needed.
- Housing assistance: The Grand Junction Housing Authority provides affordable housing and homeownership services for Mesa County residents of modest incomes. Assistance with securing affordable housing and avoiding foreclosure can help families stabilize their lives and get back on track. Call 245-0388 or visit gjha.org.
- Community Food Bank of Grand Junction: Mesa County residents can obtain an emergency supply of food up to nine times each year. For additional information, call 640-0336 or visit foodbankgj.org.
Programs administered by the Mesa County Department of Human Services include:
- Colorado Works/Temporary Aid to Needy Families: This provides temporary assistance and intensive support to help eligible families secure employment and attain self-sufficiency. In general, services are available to pregnant women and families that have one or more children in the home who’ve been deprived of parental support or care because of the absence, disability, unemployment or death of either parent.
- Colorado Child Care Assistance Program: This provides financial assistance to low-income families who’re working, searching for employment or are in an educational activity — middle school, high school or general education development program, or in some instances post-secondary, vocational or technical training — and need child care services to support their efforts toward self-sufficiency.
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program: This provides supplemental assistance to help low-income individuals and families purchase food. Benefits are based on household composition and income and the resources of all household members.
- Low Income Energy Assistance Program: This helps needy Colorado residents pay a portion of their winter utility bills. Colorado residents may apply for LEAP assistance from Nov. 1 through April 30. Applications are available at the Mesa County Department of Human Services or can be printed from the LEAP website.
- Health First Colorado: This is a health care benefit program for minor children, parents of minor children and pregnant women who meet income and resource eligibility guidelines established by the state and federal governments.
- Colorado PEAK: This online service helps individuals apply for cash, early childhood assistance, food and medical programs. Visit coloradopeak.secure.force.com.
For more information, log on to the website at humanservices.mesacounty.us/assistance-programs/ or call 241-8480. The department can also provide information about elder assistance and disabled programs.
Mesa County Public Health also offers programming to support families and children:
- Women, Infants & Children program: This helps with healthy foods, breastfeeding and nutrition education. Recipients receive an electronic benefit transfer card at their first appointment. The card is good the day of the appointment at participating grocery stores. To qualify, recipients need identification and proof of their addresses and income for past 30 days for their household. Individuals who qualify for SNAP/Medicaid automatically qualify.
- Parenting support: The Mesa County Public Health nurse-family partnership and SafeCare programs offer free in-home education and support to parents with young children. Nurses and coaches offer information on breastfeeding, developmental stages, discipline, health, nutrition and safety.
For more information about these programs, visit health.mesacounty.us or call 248-6900.
Sharing information about available resources can help an employee make the connections they need to get through a difficult time while remaining a productive member of the work force.