HAMPDEN, Maine — SAD 22 has been selected as one of only four school districts in the state to participate in a two-year pilot program designed to lower risks and improve the overall health of employees.
The project, a joint effort between Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield and its foundation and the Maine Education Association Benefits Trust, was announced Monday and will begin Dec. 1.
It’s believed to be the first wellness program of its kind in Maine schools.
“This school wellness pilot project will be a valuable demonstration of an approach to improve health and lower health risk factors that makes the connection between life-style choices and overall health,” Dan Corcoran, president of Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, said in a statement.
SAD 22 Superintendent Rick Lyons said Monday that he was pleased to be included in the program, which will be offered at no cost to the district.
“We are thrilled that our school district is participating in this innovative project to improve the health of our staff and ultimately, to reduce the growth in health care costs,” he said.
Aside from SAD 22, which includes the towns of Hampden, Winterport and Newburgh, school districts in Gardiner, Readfield and Topsham also will participate. Anthem’s foundation and the MEA Benefits Trust will split the $400,000 in funding for the two-year program.
Christina Burke, executive director of the MEA Benefits Trust, said the program allows health “coaches” to work one-on-one with teachers and staff toward wellness.
“We hope to demonstrate effective ways to reduce risk factors that contribute to poor health later in life and give our school staff the knowledge and skill to live healthy lives,” she said.
Occupational Medical Consulting of Leeds, which works with businesses all over the state, will lead the project. Everyone who participates will have an individual health risk appraisal to determine which concerns need to be addressed.
“This personalized approach to health coaching has been effective in helping employees to reduce their risk factor and improve their health and has substantially reduced health care spending in our long-standing clients,” said OMC’s medical director, Dr. Larry Catlett.
The program is entirely voluntary and is open to teachers and staff who have elected to take health insurance benefits offered by their districts. Lyons, who said the district worked for about two years to develop the pilot project, predicted that as many as 70 percent of SAD 22 employees will participate.