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Public school and St. Mary’s County government employees have access to a new employee assistance program to help with stress and other personal issues.

Local government partnered with the school board to contract with Deer Oaks starting last summer.

“The feedback from the employees has been really excellent,” Tony Jones, the county’s public information officer, said.

Dennis Hilker, a psychologist based in Dunkirk, gave a presentation to the school board recently on behalf of Deer Oaks.

The employee assistance program provides free and confidential assessments, short-term counseling and many other services, Hilker said. Teachers and other staff can access the program at any time through a hotline phone number or the website www.deeroaks.com. “Everything is confidential,” Hilker said.

The employees remain eligible for the services up to six months after they retire.

Dependents who live in the home with the employee are also eligible.

“What we want is what’s best for our employees,” board member Cathy Allen said during a presentation of the school system’s employee assistance program at a board meeting earlier this month. Deer Oaks provides entry to a variety of services for school employees, she said.

Superintendent Michael Martirano said that the behavioral health organization offers services beyond what many employee assistance programs offer. It is not just for use at times of great stress, he said, and includes a variety of services beyond behavioral counseling.

Employees can receive financial services, including consultation on investments, loans or other money matters. They are also offered help with fixing issues associated with identification theft.

Deer Oaks also provides a free 30-minute legal consult to discuss wills, division of property, divorce or any other legal matters, Hilker said. Employees also get a 25 percent discount on attorney fees.

The website also offers child care and elder care recommendations.

Teachers and other school employees are also allowed one free taxi ride per year. That ride can be called in for any reason, Hilker said.

Jones, speaking on behalf of the county’s human resources department, said by partnering, the county government and public schools were able to get better prices for the services.

“It’s a win-win for everybody,” Jones said.

He said the Deer Oaks program does provide more services than the previous program used. “It was really a better fit and we are getting a much more rounded suite of services,” Jones said.

jyeatman@somdnews.com