Chesterton Tribune

 
 

Duneland Schools move forward with Wellness Center based on cost savings

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

The Duneland School Board took significant steps Tuesday toward enhancing health coverage for school employees, a move that it is hoped will reduce costs and create healthier lifestyles.

Assistant Superintendent Dave Pruis told the board the employee benefits committee made the suggestion to transform the former IMC and administration building on 5th Street into an onsite clinic for employees who are enrolled on the schools’ health plan.

“The concept for a wellness center or a clinic has been discussed year after year,” Pruis said.

On the committee’s behalf, Pruis recommended entering into a two-year agreement with the Indianapolis-based Novia Care Clinics LLC to open the clinic and to share the site with Porter County Trust which would bring additional savings.

The committee favored Novia based on cost reductions, expertise, and convenience for those in the education sector. Novia services 53 schools throughout the state.

The center would not be a full-fledged emergency room but employees would receive primary and preventive care, prescription refills and laboratory work without having to pay any deductibles or co-pays.

Representatives from Novia said they had spent the last several months analyzing Duneland’s health care data. The firm has established clinics in Valparaiso, Griffith and most recently Knox which all can be used by Duneland employees on the health insurance at their convenience.

Gary Raikes, business manager for Novia, said proximity is an important factor. The school district stands to benefit as a healthier workforce will mean higher productivity and lower absenteeism. Employees can also make assessments of their health risk factors and plan with clinic physicians now to lower those risks.

The plan would also be available to Duneland retirees who use the schools’ insurance.

At Novia Care Clinics, wellness programs will focus on behavioral changes such as eating healthy, quitting smoking and managing diabetes.

For security and confidentiality, medical data will be kept on a computer, never on paper, and will be encrypted seven times by Novia on its server. The records will be protected by federal and state HIPAA laws.

Raikes said there will be relatively minor build-out and startup costs for the new clinic but with the plan fully implemented the schools should make back their expenditures in a short time through the savings created. Novia does charge a monthly management fee which is the only way it makes its revenue.

With the board’s approval, Novia will meet with school officials the first week of December to fine tune the agreement and estimates the Duneland location could be open within four months.

Director of Wellness and Ancillary Services Kelly Witt for RE Sutton said sharing the clinic with Porter County Trust will reduce monthly management costs from $21 to $16 per Duneland employee enrolled in the program, a savings of about $28,000 per year.

Based on 2011 figures, Witt said Duneland could see a 50 percent reduction in prescription costs, 50 percent in office visits and 90 percent in lab costs. The overall savings in claim expenses is up to three dollars for each dollar spent, Witt said.

Raikes said Novia is not tied to any practice or hospital which is why they are able to provide a lower cost.

It will take about three years for the clinic to operate at its maximum level of operation. The clinic’s hours will start at 16 hours per week for two or three days but should gradually expand.

School Board Vice President Mike Trout said he attended the Valparaiso clinic’s open house and found the appearance very similar to a regular doctor office. He said sharing the clinic is “the way to go.” Porter County Trust has shared clinics located in Lake Station, Oregon Davis, Knox and Hebron.

The board was unanimous in its decision to pursue the agreements.

Duneland Business Manager Bonnie Gaston told the Tribune the corporation currently has 237 singles and 234 families on its insurance plan. The corporation pays 80 percent of the monthly premiums while employees pay the remaining 20 percent. For singles, the corporation pays $526 per month and $1,218 for families, Gaston said.

State Assembly changes

In his comments to the board, Duneland School Superintendent Baer was silent about the results of last week’s School Board election but was more vocal about what might be brewing inside the Indiana Legislature and what it could mean for school funding. He asked board member Ralph Ayres, the school’s liaison on statehouse matters, to share his thoughts.

Ayres said with the results of this election, the Republicans have taken the majority with 69 members compared to 31 Democrats. The ratio in the State Senate is 37 Republicans to 13 Democrats.

Leadership changes this year will be seen in the Ways and Means Committee. Longtime leaders Rep. Jeff Espich, R-Uniondale, and Rep. Bill Crawford, D-Indianapolis have stepped down. Rep. Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville, was announced Tuesday as the committee’s next Chairman, Ayres said. The committee’s minority leader will be Rep. Greg Porter, D-Indianapolis.

Ayres said one of Duneland’s state representatives, 9th District Rep. Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, has been chosen to be the minority leader for the state house of representatives.

“I think that bodes well for our district,” Ayres said.

Some pieces of legislation will be introduced early on Tuesday, Nov. 20, when the Assembly reorganizes.

Ayres mentioned this will be a budget year when the Assembly will set the state’s budget for the next two years. “It will be kind of interesting to see what happens,” he said.

On a separate matter, Ayres mentioned it may be worthwhile for school officials to attend Thursday morning’s Porter County Redevelopment Commission meeting. RDC member John Shepherd has prepared a presentation on how TIF districts would develop and operate in the unincorporated areas of the county, which could affect school funding.

Ayres said much of the Duneland School Corporation is in unincorporated areas. The area surrounding Porter Regional Hospital in Liberty Twp. has been eyed by County officials as a possible location for TIF districts.

Porter board

In other business, Duneland Superintendent Dirk Baer said the Porter Town Council has approached the school corporation to explore the possibility of the Duneland School Board making their own citizen appointment to the Porter Park Board. The appointee would have to be a Porter resident, Baer added.

The board voted favorably to move forward with the discussion.

A little night music

The meeting started on a patriotic note as 17 students from the Westchester Intermediate School Choir sang their Veteran’s Day medley for the board.

The students’ medley combined “Sing a Song of Peace” with “This is My Country.” which they had performed the day before for a Veteran’s Day program.

Music teacher Dawn Flasch said her choirs generally range from 80 to 100 students. They will be performing a Christmas concert in three weeks and some will sing for the Circle the State with Song choral festival in Indianapolis this March.

Weekly practice takes place after school on Tuesdays.

Flasch said she has seen her students build their confidence and self-esteem.

“It’s much more than just singing,” Flasch said.

Summer School Trips

Also, Moffett recommended approval of the Marine Biology/Scuba Class trip to the Florida Keys and the Trail Bound trip to South Dakota for summer school field trips and got a unanimous nod from the board.

The cost for the Scuba class, June 25-29, is approximately $1,800 per student and the Trail Bound class, June 16-23, is approximately $660. Duneland has offered the trips for a number of years, Baer said, and the students take full advantage of the programs.

Baer wished all a Happy Thanksgiving and urged residents to stay advised and prepared for winter weather as it approaches.

Personnel report

Assistant Superintendent Monte Moffett reported the appointment of Sue Heneghan as a Lunch Room Aide for Brummitt Elementary. Resigning is Kristen Cunningham, an Instructional Aide for Liberty Elementary.

 

Posted 11/14/2012