Javier Guzman, an on-site employee assistance program (EAP) consultant, remembers how depressed Daniel* was when he came in for his first session. Between caring for his elderly father and managing his own health issues, he felt overwhelmed … and that was before he was laid off due to COVID-19 closures.
Guzman worried about his patient. “He was pretty distraught. His mortgage was paid off, so that was a positive, but he still had a lot of other bills to pay, including medical bills for himself and his father. Food was another need as well.”
Guzman also saw another potential obstacle for Daniel: technical issues within the unemployment application system. “Early on, there was such an influx of people trying to apply that some would start the process and the system would crash. They’d have to start over again. A person who’s depressed and lacking motivation and energy is likely to simply give up when something like that happens.”
Going above and beyond to resolve issues
Guzman wanted to help Daniel. He felt he needed to go beyond what was expected and not only connect him with resources, but also make sure the issues were resolved. “Given what was going on with COVID, I knew I needed to do more for this guy.”
“English is not his first language, so there was a language barrier there. Plus, I don’t think he’d ever received unemployment, so the system was completely new to him. I would hate for somebody to not get the support they need.”
Guzman called Daniel and offered to walk him through his state unemployment system online, which Guzman himself notes can be daunting. “There are a lot of questions about things like working out of state, child support, if you file taxes, and so on. It can be tough to navigate.”
Over the phone, Guzman patiently explained every step of the process. “It took an hour and a half. Our appointments are usually 45 minutes, but I didn’t have another appointment after him, so we stayed until we were finished, and he was able to submit his application.” Guzman’s assistance didn’t stop there: He also steered Daniel toward local food drives and state programs that help people pay their utility bills.
Daniel was deeply grateful for Guzman’s help, but also surprised to receive it. “He understood the program to be focused only on mental health. He didn’t expect for us to be able to help in other ways. He was very thankful.”
Javier Guzman, on-site employee assistance program consultant
A legacy of care that continues today
For Guzman, helping others comes naturally — you might even say it’s hereditary. “My mom was a social worker, and I studied social work in school,” he says. “During college, I did an internship with a mental health organization, which is where I fell in love with case management — it’s rewarding to be able to help people.
“It’s tough right now, but I try to find the positive,” Guzman continues. “And I teach that to my patients, to find the positive, and to use this time at home to spend more time with family. Before this happened, a lot of our lives were go, go, go; this has allowed us all to slow down and relax a little bit.”
Today, in addition to his EAP work, Guzman also works in integrated behavioral health, providing therapy and counseling services. As for Daniel, Guzman is still in touch with him. “He’s coping well. He’s just waiting for his first check and trying to stay positive. We talk about things like knowing this is temporary, and why it’s important to seek out community supports, family and friends.”
*The member’s name was changed to protect his identity.