Dave Oates: Welcome to another Public Relations Security videocast where we talk with experts in and around Southern California and all things related to risk management and crisis communications. We’re privileged to have Gilbert Manzano, senior vice president of client partnerships at ACI Specialty Benefits.

Dave Oates: Gilbert, thanks so much for the time. Appreciate it.

Gilbert Manzano: Thanks so much, Dave. I appreciate it.

Dave Oates: Give us a little bit of background on your services, the company, and how you play into managing risk for organizations.

Gilbert Manzano: Yes, so ACI Specialty Benefits, which is the name of the organization that I work for, has been in business for 36 years. Our founder, Dr. Ann Clark, started the company 36 years ago and when she saw the need for more employee assistance programs, service providers, or EAPs, as many people know us as. And since then, we have expanded our services into offering corporate concierge, work-life services, student assistance program services, and finally crisis ready services or crisis response services.

Dave Oates: I was really interested in that last part because one of the things that I found very intriguing about your organization is the amount of risk management services you have to your overall EAP packaging. So maybe talk a little bit about that Crisis Ready package and how are you positioned to helping organizations do that?

Gilbert Manzano: Right. And just for those that may not be familiar with EAP services, this is a benefit that offers mental health services to employees, and it’s an employer-sponsored benefit. So the employer pays for the benefit of employees in the time of need when they need to speak with a mental health professional. So that’s really at the crux of what we do.

Gilbert Manzano: And with regard to crisis, as you know, we all know, oftentimes people need to talk to somebody to get through those difficult times.

Dave Oates: Very true.

Gilbert Manzano: And so what we do is we jump into action when things like that happen. So if a client calls us for those types of services, it could be that there was a robbery at the worksite. It could be that there was an employee, a coworker that passed away. It could be a natural disaster. So these are all the reasons why we get calls. And so what we do is we make sure that those people are able to get the care that they might need in talking to somebody, a mental health professional. And really it’s to help the employer have a positive impact on one, help the employees cope with a situation that they’ve just experienced and two, to get back to a sense of normalcy. That’s the end goal because as we all know, as an employer, if you’re in a leadership position, you know that lost productivity hits the bottom line. And so, it’s not to sound callous by any means, but really it’s to help them get through that process, that situation, and be able to get back to work.

Dave Oates: So a couple of questions that sort of come to mind from that overview and thanks for that is one, how do you get the employees to take advantage of programs like that? The word mental health, while certainly without necessarily the complete stigma it may have had even 5, 10 years ago, still is one that makes people uncomfortable of admitting that they need the services of something like that. So that’s first off. And then second, how do you then get the employers to recognize that that is a truly valuable service and communicate that to them?

Gilbert Manzano: Yeah, and you’re exactly right Dave. It’s a constant challenge to really get employers or employees rather utilize the benefit that they have.

Dave Oates: Sure.

Gilbert Manzano: And again, as I said, this is an employer-sponsored benefit so they don’t even have to pay for the services. So it’s something that we work with our clients on, meaning the employer, to really come up with the best marketing communications strategy to market the benefit to their employees so that they do take advantage. Because there is a stigma, and it’s something that we come up against often. But I think we do a really good job here at ACI.

Gilbert Manzano: One of the things that our clients comment on is how our marketing materials are much more vibrant, they’re more colorful, they really kind of show the end result of how somebody can be after having experienced a difficult situation. And so we want to really kind of showcase that. Like reaching out to your employee assistance program or whether it’s crisis response services, this can be the end result. Let us help you get to this point.

Dave Oates: So you sort of answered the following question then, which is how important is a communications plan in articulating the need for the services and then employing those services?

Gilbert Manzano: It’s vital and especially nowadays, the landscape of the workplace has changed. We see a rise in opioids and other drug use or abuse, we see more natural disasters now, we see guns that come into the workplace more frequently. And so it’s just, it’s sad, but it is the reality that we live in now. And so one of the things that we communicate to our clients is how essential preparation, being prepared for a situation like that is just you have to be. It’s something that you just can’t overlook nowadays.

Dave Oates: So you sort of went into at least what was my last question to you, which is when do you prepare for something like that? And I think the answer is before it becomes an issue.

Gilbert Manzano: Today.

Dave Oates: Yeah.

Gilbert Manzano: I mean really that’s really the answer because you don’t want to wait until you’re caught off guard because most of these events are unexpected. You don’t anticipate when a gun person is going to come in and shoot up people in your workplace. The only thing I would say that you might be able to anticipate somewhat is something to do with extreme weather. You might have a warning.

Dave Oates: Right.

Gilbert Manzano: But even then you don’t know to the extent the damage is going to be. And so, I mean, with the wildfires in Northern California. One of our clients is in the healthcare space and it’s a hospital and I got a call from the senior vice president of human resources asking us for help to deploy mental health professionals because within such a short period of time, 50 employees had lost their homes, and that number grew, only grew. And these were employees that had to go to work and still care for patients and figure out whether they were going to have to help get those patients out of the hospital to evacuate. So talk about being in a situation whereby you just know you’ve lost everything you own to have to go to work and still be a caretaker.

Dave Oates: What a relatable topic because even if you’re not in health care, people know of people who have been affected by trauma in the workplace, whether it’s a natural disaster or a manmade disaster as the cases you talked about with, God forbid, a mass shooting or drug epidemic or something like that. And so everybody can sort of remember a time in which they … If they didn’t experience it, they knew of somebody that does. So fascinating stuff. As we go, give us a website and contact information we can get ahold of you.

Gilbert Manzano: You can reach us at acispecialtybenefits.com and you can … Actually, I’ll give you our general email address that comes to our team, which is service@acispecialtybenefits.com.

Dave Oates: Perfect. Gilbert, it’s been a pleasure. Thanks for the time.

Gilbert Manzano: Thanks so much.

Dave Oates: Really appreciate it.

Gilbert Manzano: Appreciate it.

Dave Oates: We’ll see you next time. Thanks for watching.