One Feather Consulting's recently announced partnership extends its employee assistance programs (EAP) and disease management services from North America’s 1,000 tribal nations and bands into Canada, Hawaii, South America, Europe and Asia.
One Feather, operational since 2000 on the Seneca Nation of Indians' Cattaraugus Reservation in Western New York State, began as a family- and community-based consulting firm to provide short-term problem-solving services for tribal work forces.
“Our focus is working with Indian country, and for many years, we’ve been the only service provider with a Native background,” says Dr. Rodney Haring, an enrolled member of the Seneca Nation of Indians, and founder and CEO of the consulting firm.
EAP is a free, confidential counseling and referral service designed to help people resolve their problems that may affect their personal or professional life. In addition to standard employee assistance support for issues like emotional/family/work stress, legal and financial concerns, and alcohol/drug/domestic violence issues, the new venture wants to offer supplemental disease management programs to the Indian Health Service and implement programs that demonstrate tribal cost savings in terms of reduced absenteeism and workplace distractions resulting in more productive employees.
“We noticed over the years that we needed to improve our capabilities at a broader level, so we joined forces in a joint venture with Chestnut Global Partners as an extension of their ‘glocal’ [global and local] EAP model that combines central coordination and infrastructure with ‘in-country’ counselors who understand local cultures and customs. One Feather Consulting team members will provide sensitivity training to Chestnut’s non-Native staff to increase awareness and understanding of cultural differences.”
Haring recognizes that bringing "a non-Native service firm" into Native communities with "non-Native counselors is vastly different from using Native employees." But the firms are dedicated to hiring local Natives whenever possible. "We’ll be recruiting Native peoples wherever we have a contract,” says Haring.
Haring says Chestnut has worked with unique cultures and work forces and knows how to perform in a manner that promotes trust with Native American employees and their families. “While it is our goal to grow our business, our basic mission is to provide specialized services to Native communities that may not have been there in the past. Our short-term EAP counseling is related to a work-life balance in matters that affect work habits—we work with people so they can return to their jobs in a more productive manner."
On behalf of One Feather, Haring worked with Chestnut, an Illinois not-for-profit behavioral health organization, for several years as a research scientist consultant. He was introduced to their method of working with EAP programs, and recognizing their approach aligned with his, a fledgling cooperative effort was born.
“One Feather Consulting provides service to a diverse population historically underserved,” says Chestnut Global Partners President and CEO Russ Hagen. “As a Native American EAP supplier, they are able to overcome issues of historical mistrust and understand different environmental contexts—like urban versus reservation-based populations, reading subtle communications clues, and the acute sensitivity of assuring confidentiality where many clients are related by blood, marriage or through social networks.”
While the new service amalgam may increase revenues, “In all honesty, it wasn’t so much about finances, but giving back to our Native communities in the way I’ve been trained to do. I know we have a good service mix that can make a difference for tribes, giving back in a good way,” Haring says. “I can go to the grave saying I made a difference in Indian Country.”