County employees attending the wellness initiative kick-off event said they were thrilled with their new benefits.

Lauren Wood, a department of health and human services employee, said she will definitely be taking advantage of the program.

“I will particularly use the gym benefit. If I go regularly, it will be completely paid for,” she said.

Ira Dove, director of the largest department in the county, health and human services, thanked the county commissioners for the new program emphasizing wellness.

“This is an excellent initiative by the county that focuses on prevention,” he said, noting the nurse navigator, personal trainer and dietician aspects would go a long way to making county employees healthier.

Kim Marion and her daughter, Grayson, were standing in line to sign up for the gym membership.

“It’s a blessing,” Marion said, noting she would especially use the fitness center. Grayson was most excited about swimming in the pool.

Not only county employees, but their families and county retirees are eligible for the program.

Doyle Teague with the elections department, said he was looking forward to using the fitness center, as was Deputy Mark Mease.

Model pioneers

The Emergency Services department has been using a wellness model for the past two years and has already seen results.

Director Greg Shuping said emergency medical providers work closely with the hospital, so forging a partnership to keep county employees healthy was a logical step. So far, the department has seen a 60 percent reduction in Occupational Safety and Health Administration injuries.

The injury decrease is partly attributable to the safer operational plans, and equipment that has been purchased, Shuping added.

“With the work we do, there are a lot of back and shoulder injuries,” he explained, adding injuries can be curbed when employees are more physically fit.

Shuping said he’s also noticed that emergency service employees are eating healthier.

“It’s not just exercising. It’s a culture change,” he said. “That’s why it is hard to see immediate results.”

The new benefits offered by the county goes much farther than the internal model of the emergency services department, however, offering free fitness center membership if employees go regularly, along with personal training services, a nurse navigator and dietician services.

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