Imagine summoning the courage to admit you have a problem with addiction and asking for help. Then imagine being put on a waiting list for treatment. Would you still be motivated to get help when a spot opens up—potentially several weeks later?

That was one of the problems a London, Ontario union discovered as it became more aware of the challenges of addictions. In response, LiUNA Local 1059’s benefits plan contracted with Addiction Services of Thames Valley in London to provide a dedicated counsellor for members and their immediate families.


The LiUNA program started with a part-time counsellor in 2014 and expanded to include a full-time position in 2015. The relationship means Local 1059 members have direct and more personalized access to counselling for addictions and mental health issues.

“We’re providing both a message and a clear route for members and their families to get help,” Jim MacKinnon, Local 1059 business manager, said in an article about the program that will appear in the July/August issue of Plans & Trusts magazine. Local 1059 has 3,000 members, including about 2,500 who work in construction.

[Related: Health Risk Assessment, Engagement Survey and New Views of Employee Coping Skills]

In the past, members looking for help with addiction had to visit an agency like Addiction Services during work hours. They had to complete an assessment required by the province to access publicly funded drug addiction and mental health services. After the assessment, members typically were placed on a waiting list.

Because of the Local 1059 program, members seeking help contact the dedicated counsellor, Joshua Keene, directly. He then has a mandate to meet one on one with the member within five business days. The member completes the assessment with Keene’s guidance. Treatment planning follows the assessment and usually involves counselling sessions with Keene.

“When we’re talking about things like mental health concerns and addictions, motivation can be quite fleeting for people,” Keene explained. “What we want to do is catch people when they’re in that motivated moment and start the process and have them connected right away.”

Since it started in 2014, the program has provided direct clinical community support for 75 plan members, including 61 union members and 14 immediate family members. About 85% of clients come back for counselling with Keene, but 11 were referred to intensive residential treatment. The number of counselling sessions averages seven to eight per client.

The program has not only helped individuals but has improved health and safety at worksites, MacKinnon believes. “There’s a real health and safety component in it to assist employers to have their employees understand the effect on the workplace that addiction has.”

Kathy Bergstrom, CEBS
Editor, Publications at the International Foundation

Kathy Bergstrom, CEBS

Editor, Publications at the International Foundation

Favorite Foundation service/product: Benefits Magazine and Plans & Trusts

Benefits related topics that interest her most: Financial literacy, health and wellness programs

Favorite Foundation conference moment: Hearing attendees sing “O, Canada” at Canadian Annual in addition to hearing the anthem sung in both French and English.

Personal Insight: Whether she’s collecting information for a magazine story or hanging out with her family and friends, you know Kathy is fully engaged. Her listening ear and introspective nature provide reassuring presence to those enjoying her company.

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