The IUPAT Helping Hand Program is a joint labor-management initiative that provides training, education, and resource development to help members and their families who are forced to deal with substance use disorder (SUD), alcoholism, and mental health challenges.
The program supports and assists District Councils with developing behavioral health awareness training, providing peer support education, encouraging the use of stigma-reducing language, and connecting individuals with the proper resources and levels of care in their specific area. In addition, Helping Hand has improved communication between District Councils, contractors, insurance providers, and employee assistance programs to ensure help is readily available when needed.
Helping Hand was created in 2018 in response to a surge in mental health and substance use-related issues, and we continue to expand and increase our commitment to this movement. Furthermore, there is a growing need to educate our members and contractors on the severity and seriousness of these types of problems and the negative ripple effects they have on IUPAT families and the construction industry.
Helping Hand is dedicated to ensuring that all members and their families get the help and assistance they need to face life’s issues successfully. Furthermore, we believe that all members of the IUPAT should feel as though they are valued and a vital part of the union. This is achieved through compassion, empathy, and understanding, as well as open-mindedness and a strong ability to embrace change and be forward-thinking.
We at Helping Hand know that a cultural change, coupled with a shift in mindset, is necessary for our union’s advancement. In order to have a cohesive workforce, we need to treat each other like family, understand that we are one, and need to have each other’s back, always. Furthermore, as our actions and attitudes continue to evolve positively, substance use disorder, alcoholism, and mental health challenges will be openly discussed, and the conversations around them will be normalized. This is the future outlook for the IUPAT and the commitment to our members’ health and well-being.
Mike Heinz, a longtime member of District Council 5/Local Union 1238 (Seattle), former LMCI Industry Liaison for Floorcovering, and Helping Hand co-founder, was instrumental in organizing and collaborating with the Helping Hand Champions in each District Council. His work and dedication assisted in establishing and expediting a support and education process surrounding behavioral health issues.
Heinz lost his son, Michael, a former member of DC 5/LU 1238, to fentanyl poisoning in August 2022. His story is not much different from many young adults who have been affected by substance use disorder. “Michael was a talented, kind, caring, and loving young man. NO ONE should have to experience the deep, deep loss of a loved one,” said Heinz.
Bob Swanson, suicide prevention advocate and Helping Hand co-founder, has been working to change the stigma and shame about mental illness and suicide since losing his son to suicide in 2009.