BY KARISSA MILLER

The Iredell-Statesville Board of Education is exploring the feasibility of opening a health clinic for district employees.

Alvera Lesane, associate superintendent of Human Resources, presented a proposal to the board on Monday, touting the benefits to the employees and the district.

There is legislation on the horizone that could potentially double the cost of some employees’ deductibles, Lesane said, and co-pays are also on the rise.

District officials believe opening the clinic will encourage workers to seek pre-emptive care since it would cost them less than a traditional doctor’s office visit. The clinic would utilizes data and other information to help employees reduce the risk of illness and the onset of diseases such as diabetes.

Employees would still be able to go to their primary care physician. The clinic would be voluntary.

Other services that would be provided include physical therapy, physicals, and lab screenings and tests.

The clinic would be a joint venture with Iredell Health System. It would be in partnership with Iredell County government, City of Statesville, Mitchell Community College, Mooresville Graded School District, Town of Mooresville and Town of Troutman.

Opening the clinic would help employees, many of whom have to take a half day or full day off work to see a doctor. There’s an opportunity to reduce absenteeism and increase productivity by getting employees back to work in a timely way, Lesane said.

“You hear about morale, you hear about stress levels, doing more with less and so we talk about recruitment and retention — we think this is an important benefit we can offer our employees,” Lesane said. “And just the overall notion of investing in our employees.”

The clinic, which could be housed in the Unity Center in Statesville, would be run by a nurse practitioner with the help of a medical assistant.

The clinic would cost around $119,700 for 38 weeks in salaries. There are approximately 2,500 I-SS employees.

Lesane pointed to the success of the wellness clinic that the Iredell County Board of Commissioners established for county employees. Due to demand, the clinic needed additional within a year.

According to a report prepared for the Iredell county commissioners in 2019, the clinic’s active patient pool is 1,541. Employees, dependents and retirees covered on the county’s health plan are able to utilize the clinic.

Representatives in attendance at Monday’s I-SS meeting were Mildred Minor, City of Statesville Human Resources Director; Lynn Smyth, City of Statesville Risk Manager; Misty Kerr, Iredell Health System Corporate Wellness Coordinator; and Kim Holland, Iredell Health Director of Operations of Iredell Physician Network.

The board asked the staff to bring back more detailed costs associated with the clinic. It was mentioned that the City of Statesville doesn’t have enough utilization to fund its own clinic so the school district could potentially share some of the costs with the city.

“Investing in wellness … is investing in your greatest asset — your employees,” said Kerr.

“A lot of times your health takes a back seat. These are the leaders for our children and we need them to be the best they can be,” she added.

Lesane said that many I-SS employees do not go to the doctor because they cannot afford the co-pay. She also mentioned that many of the employees do not utilize their health care insurance and that a surprising number of them do not have primary health care provider.

“This is a unique opportunity to be at the core of innovation across North Carolina with a unique countywide focus on investing in wellness,” Lesane said.

Board member Charles Kelly said he’s not seen anything to convince him the savings would justify the expense of a clinic. There are plenty of clinics and medical programs throughout Iredell County, he said.

He also objected to the district paying for some of the start-up costs like tongue depressors, exam tables and other items.

Kelly pointed out I-SS would be paying for a health company to go into business on their campus. Rather, he said, “instead of creating another entity why not create the partnerships we need.”

Board member Ken Poindexter voiced support for the idea.

“I think this is a great idea. I think it’s something we need to do,” Poindexter said.

He mentioned that other businesses that have onsite wellness clinics have had positive outcomes.

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