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Reducing Company Turnover and Improving Peace of Mind: Prioritizing Mental Health Treatment Coverage at Weingarten
Several years ago, a family member of Stanford Alexander, Weingarten’s Chairman, received treatment for mental illness. This treatment and subsequent coverage brought to light a problem that Mr. Alexander had never thought about when determining coverage for his employees. When Mr. Alexander learned that a number of his employees who had mental conditions were not seeking the professional help they needed due to limitations of their medical coverage at Weingarten, Mr. Alexander worked with other employers and Mental Health America of Houston to enhance mental health coverage. No, there are no caps on Weingarten’s mental health treatment, and deductibles are the same as for general medical treatments.
In the Houston area, a number of employers began a move toward parity in 2002 through the leadership and encouragement of Stanford Alexander, Chairman of Weingarten Realty Investors. Weingarten is a self-insured Fortune 500 firm with more than 400 employees in 23 states. Mr. Alexander’s family was touched by mental illness, and when he learned that a number of his employees who had mental conditions were not seeking the professional help they needed due to limitations of medical coverage, he was determined to do something about it. Weingarten’s plan includes coverage for alcohol and substance abuse and for treatment of family/marital problems. There are no caps on mental health treatment, and deductibles are same as for general medical treatments.
Mickey Townsell, Vice President of Human Resources, says that Weingarten budgets about $10,000 per employee per year for benefits. Mental health represents approximately 1%-1 ½ % of annual benefit costs. “Every company is obviously looking for ways to reduce costs, but with all the demands we have to deal with in this day and age, you have to see what you can do to help employees,” says Townsell. Assisting the company’s key assets “its employees” adds value long-term. An excellent example of how this program paid off for Weingarten was with an employee who had been with the company for 15 years and after struggling with a mental health issue, took a leave of absence. Access to professional care helped this employee work things through, and he was able to return to work. As Townsell explains, “You don’t want to lose those longstanding employees or their family members if you can help them. Getting them the care they need may help the employee’s overall ability to be at work."
Weingarten assesses the results in a number of ways. “Yes, you can look at turnover—and our turnover is about half of the industry standard—that’s a meaningful measure. But peace of mind is immeasurable. Employees being more productive, more thankful to the organization. Those are meaningful outcomes that are not easy to quantify.”
Mickey Townsell says Mr. Alexander treats employees like family. Parity was another step toward that, giving people the help they need. Stanford Alexander values and develops good leaders. Senior managers have grown up together, many for 20 years or more. That gives the leadership team comfort with each other. “Employees here want to do a good job for these leaders, they have a sense of pride in this organization,” shares Townsell. “People work hard, and they know what they need to do, but at the same time, family is highly valued. If I need to leave early to get to my son’s game, I know that’s alright.”
Mr. Alexander has served on several hospital boards and will contact the hospitals himself to use his influence on behalf of an employee or family member if needed, so employees know they can count on him to help in many ways. Weingarten a family-owned publicly traded company, and it shows in the care they have for their employees and their own families.
About Weingarten Realty Investors
Weingarten’s business activities encompass the long-term ownership, management, acquisition, development and redevelopment of strategically located neighborhood and community shopping centers and select industrial properties. Their properties are predominantly located in the highest growth regions of the country, the south and west.
Last Updated: April 2009