Curators vote to expand stress-reducing program for UM System employees

Thursday, April 11, 2013 | 6:19 p.m. CDT; updated 11:57 a.m. CDT, Friday, April 12, 2013

ROLLA — A program that provides stress-prevention services to University of Missouri System employees in Columbia is expanding to the rest of the system.

The UM System Board of Curators voted Thursday to extend the University Employee Assistance Program to UM campuses in Rolla, St. Louis and Kansas City.

Through the program, system employees can receive stress training, health tips and counseling on topics such as marital problems, substance abuse and friction in the workplace, said James Hunter, the program's director.

In a presentation to the board, system Vice President of Human Resources Betsy Rodriguez said the expanded program will cost the system between $350,000 and $400,000 annually and will be included in employees' overall benefits.

Hunter said the program specializes in prevention before primary care is necessary.

"It's crucial to intervene early rather than waiting for a major crisis," he said. "It's the same mentality as flossing and brushing your teeth to prevent tooth decay."

Hunter will monitor the expanded programs in Rolla, St. Louis and Kansas City from his hub in Columbia, according to meeting documents. Currently, MU is the only campus in the system with any type of employee assistance program, Jennifer Hollingshead, the system's spokeswoman, said.

During the past six years, the University Employee Assistance program has seen its clientele increase by 121 employees, with 381 clinical visitors in 2011-2012, according to statistics provided by the program.

Employees from University Hospital frequented the program's services the most, accounting for more than 25 percent of the visits in 2011-2012.

Hunter said there's no timetable for when the new programs will be operational at the new sites, but he's in the process of hiring personnel, including a full-time employee in Columbia. 

"We've had success, but we're not rigid. Each campus has unique needs," he said.

Here are other items of note from the board's meeting Thursday at the Missouri University of Science and Technology:

  • The board discussed the results of a debt capacity study of the UM System. System Treasurer Thomas Richards presented the study, which estimated $500 million in debt issuance needs in the next five years. System administrators said the system's credit rating could downgrade in the coming years. The study concluded that the system's credit rating was fairly strong, but if the drop in credit rating were to occur, the system's credit rating would remain strong relative to other public universities.

  • The board discussed the preliminary system budget for the 2013-14 academic year, which has been revised since the curators' January meeting. The system expects to bring in $2.9 billion and spend about $2.8 billion. This prediction accounts for the 1.7 percent increase in resident undergraduate tuition and fees, which was approved in January, and assumes the system will not receive an increase in state funding from the previous year. It does not include unapproved items, such as the $16.5 million in performance funding recommended by Gov. Jay Nixon. A finalized budget will be presented for approval at the board's June meeting.

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Ellis Smith April 12, 2013 | 6:12 a.m.

Well I guess THAT makes sense: if you don't pay competitive salaries, you can always initiate a program that allows personnel to releave stress. How much of this stress is being caused by having to work IN this joke of a system?

With such wonderful perks, why doesn't anything actually change (for the better, that is)? It's because you can dress a pig in a fancy gown, cover it with diamonds and emeralds, but...

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