Nashville's public school employees have a 26,000-square-foot fitness gym and walk-in clinic that they can now use for free. The perk is meant to be the first of several wellness centers. And it's part of a larger effort to drive down insurance costs.
The facility in Berry Hill is across the parking lot from the Metro Schools headquarters on Bransford Ave. It's part health club, part pharmacy and part primary care clinic. And the hours are meant to accommodate educators — whose schedules lack flexibility.
"You don't get one single minute during your day," says Jill Peeples, a former teacher who now works in the central office. "So the idea of coming here, either before or after, it's really optimal."
Appointments with nurse practitioners, a physical therapist or even a psychiatric nurse can be made anytime between 7 am and 7 pm. There are also Saturday hours.
There's no co-pay. And the fitness equipment and health coaching is no charge.
To top it off, the facility wasn't built directly with tax money. The funding came from the district's insurance program, which has built up excess reserves because of a program that incentivized teachers to get their primary care in school clinics. Roughly 40 percent of the district's 10,000 staff members have made their medical home at a school-based clinic, staffed by Vanderbilt medical personnel.
The $7 million wellness center is supposed to help the insurance program build up yet another surplus by improving health and providing less expensive primary care. David Hines is the district's director of benefits and says the money may be spent on another center in Madison.
"Before we move again, we'll put the money back in the bank — the savings —because we'll save based on this," he says.
The insurance savings could be returned to teachers in other ways, like reducing monthly insurance premiums. But Hines says he sees the wellness centers as a better long term investment in their health.