Sheet Metal & Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association


SMART’s MAP program helps workers with mental health, substance abuse problems

Aug 2, 2016

During the past two years the SMART International Union has been strengthening its Members Assistance Program (MAP), that is designed to help their members and members’ families having difficulty with depression, substance-use disorders, and other mental health-related problems.


The SMART MAP is a network of compassionate, respected, and competently trained union representatives and volunteers throughout SMART’s jurisdiction who work together and assist members and their families in finding the support they need. The MAP network serves as a bridge to third-party Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) that provide necessary professional help. Currently SMART’s local union staff is undergoing training to strengthen their basic skill sets necessary to respond to many of these challenges. To sum it up, SMART determined they needed to do more than just pass along an 800 number to members in need of assistance.

SMART MAP begins with an intensive training process of theory and practice of basic skills necessary for working with crisis interventions. SMART has been able to partner with several experts in the field of mental health and this expertise is reflected throughout the weeklong training. Ultimately they seek to build a climate of safety and wellness by creating a workplace culture shift that no longer ignores, stigmatizes, or disciplines sheet metal workers struggling with mental-health problems.

SMART MAP representatives will focus on three areas:

  • Early Intervention – Recognizing the signs and symptoms of substance abuse and mental health problems and offering “emotional first aid” as well as developing a proactive intervention by helping members deal with the problem

  • Understanding the Members’ Benefit Plan – Identifying appropriate resources and directing members to help within the members’ eligible health plan

  • Follow-up – Supporting the members returning back to work and assisting in coordinating the member’s continuing care plan to sustain a successful continuation of their recovery from the problem

Recently SMART has developed a second-level Peer-to-Peer Training program for local unions, which is an advanced training for MAP volunteers working in the shop and on the jobsite. They are also working to build a national support network for their local union area MAPs including advocacy in accessing treatment centers, trusted Inpatient and Intensive Outpatient (IOP) options, recovery resources, and other areas of support for members and their families.

What part can contractors play?

SMART MAP is an internal union program. However, SMART has invited contractor education on the program in order to strengthen its effectiveness. SMART is hoping that SMACNA contractors can offer support for the program by helping facilitate a much-needed culture change that destigmatizes an employee seeking help for substance use disorder or mental health-related issues.

Additionally, contractors may want to encourage employees to consider being SMART MAP volunteers. SMART is seeking volunteers who have: 1) high credibility in the local, 2) strong interpersonal skills and attentive listening skills, 3) a natural desire to help others, and 4) a willingness to learn and an availability of time.


According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Inc. (NCADD), substance use disorders costs employers $276 billion annually. Of course, SMACNA contractors are not immune from the costs associated with substance abuse or mental health problems. They cost contractors and their local unions in productivity as well as market share.

The social and economic costs of substance use disorders in America are staggering. Consider these numbers:

  • 92 percent of people with alcohol problems never get diagnosed. 

  • Absenteeism is up to 16 times greater among all employees with alcohol and other drug-related problems.

  • 76 percent of all current adult illegal drug users are employed. 

  • Non-alcoholic members of alcoholic families use ten times as much sick leave as members of families where alcoholism is not present.

  • Drug-using employees use three times as many sick benefits as other workers. They are five times more likely to file a worker's compensation claim.

  • Savings that result from investing in substance use treatment can exceed costs by a ratio of 12 to 1. 

  • Once treatment begins, total health care utilization and costs begin to drop, reaching a level that is lower than pre-treatment initiation costs after a two- to four-year period.

  • There have been cases where well-run MAPs have established a return on investment ratio as high as 27 to 1 (in the case of the Red Block MAP in SMART’s transportation industry, Amtrak, and CSX).

For more information, contact Joye Blanscett in SMACNA’s Labor Relations Department at