Former LDS Seminary building gets new life as free health clinic for Granite School District employees
WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah – From the outside, it looks like every other LDS Seminary building spread out across Utah, just steps away from junior high and high schools. If the tell-tale beige brick and architecture don’t give it away, the words ‘The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints SEMINARY” etched in stone by the front door are a dead giveaway for what this building is. Or are they?
Inside, you’ll find the purple and blue hues, wood trim and fabric walls that millions of LDS youth know all too well. But these classrooms where instructors once taught church doctrine and history will soon be used for a vastly different purpose. A free health care clinic for employees of the Granite School District and their families.
“We will have a doctor and two nurse practitioners. A full-time wellness coordinator, medical assistants and we will have a licensed social worker on staff,” Donnette McNeill-Waters, Human Relations Director for the district, explained as she walked through the building.
Pointing out where exam rooms will go and where the pharmacy and lab will be located, McNeill-Waters could hardly contain her excitement.
“We’ve been working on this project for five years,” she said.
Granite School District purchased the out-of-use Seminary building from the LDS Church and construction on the medical clinic next door to Valley Junior High in West Valley City is set to begin this summer. The district hopes to start scheduling the first patient appointments by spring 2019.
“Insurance is increasing every year and that’s a problem for everyone,” McNeill-Waters said. “We are seeing some really big increases. Not just in Granite District but statewide and nationally. Granite needs to find a way to stabilize those increases.”
“We know that it will be a great benefit for our employees and their dependents, and we also know that it will help us retain and attract teachers.”
Unlike other school districts around the state, Granite, the third largest district in the state, is ‘self-funded’. That means the district collects the health insurance premiums from their employees and pay all of their own claims. It’s a system that already keeps district employee’s premiums low but the addition of the health care clinic will help save even more money.
“We can treat someone at our clinic for a third of the cost at another urgent care facility,” McNeill-Waters said, “This is a benefit to our employees as well as our taxpayers who fund public education.”
Employees who sign up for one of the district’s health insurance plans, their families and qualifying dependents will have access to primary and urgent care at the new clinic as well as health and wellness coaching, a medical lab and pharmacy.
“It’ll be absolutely free to employees,” said McNeill-Waters. “They won’t pay co-pays. They won’t pay for prescriptions.”
With an in-house pharmacy, the clinic can provide dozens of employees’ most used prescription drugs at no charge. Lab work ordered by specialists or other physicians can be done at the clinic for free as well. And the district says the primary care at the clinic will be different than what can be found elsewhere.
“It’s all about the wellness and staying healthy,” McNeill-Waters explained. “The appointments won’t be five to seven minutes long, they’ll be 20 to 30 minutes long because we’re treating the whole person. We’re not just treating a condition.”
The role of the clinic’s wellness coordinator will be to provide follow-up care to patients, checking-in after specialist visits and making sure patients’ healthcare needs are being met. McNeill-Waters calls it ‘wraparound services’.
Enhanced technology services will allow employees to make appointments online and see a doctor remotely through e-visits.
Early and late office hours, 7 am to 7 pm, and potential weekend hours will make it easier for those who spend their days transporting and teaching Utah students to see a doctor without taking time off work.
“It’s going to be a huge, huge increase in the amount of health care they’re getting right now, said McNeill-Waters.
Granite is the first district in the state of Utah to provide an on-site, free medical clinic for employees. It’s an idea that’s taking off in the midwest with districts in Wisconsin, Iowa, Indiana, Missouri and other states offering similar free, on-campus clinics.
“We know that it will be a great benefit for our employees and their dependents,” said McNeill-Waters, “and we also know that it will help us retain and attract teachers.”
Attracting teachers is a constant battle between Utah school districts. Amid a teacher shortage, districts across the state have increased pay, added benefits and more over the last few years to recruit teachers to their schools.
“We already have lower premiums in terms of our insurance with our two carriers than anybody else in the valley and we feel good about that,. That’s part of the reason we are a destinationd district.” said McNeill-Waters. “This will just add to that. It’s another enhanced benefit to them and lets them know we care about them. And that’s good for recruiting and retention.”
You can learn more about the tactics Granite and other districts are using to attract teachers from Utah and other states in Deannie Wimmer’s report: Teacher Tug-of-war Round Two.
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