Center for Independence Wellness Program

Summary: A WorkWell Mini-Grant was awarded to the Center for Independence in Huron in 2011. The Center for Independence has several employees and serves adults with developmental disabilities. The Center for Independence committee and staff responsible for this grant faced several challenges in their first year. Overall they have made good progress and have seen success in the improvement of the health of their staff supported by the reduction of their sick leave costs. The grant project included the Step Challenge, Zumba classes, and a walking club as well as healthy living information distributed on healthy eating and increasing activity, healthy recipes and food portion size information. The challenges provided the project staff and committee with ideas of how to improve the program in the future. Now that the structure of the program is set and the ground work has been laid, there are plans to maintain and expand the program.

Reason for targeting this type of change: The overall objective of the project was to provide a variety of activities/resources to meet the health and wellness needs of both employees and people supported by the Center for Independence. The ultimate goal was to reduce the number of sick days used by staff annually by 20%.

Challenge: The staff involved in this project faced two major challenges. The first challenge was program publicity. The agency personnel are not all located in one building but in various buildings throughout Huron. This made it difficult to disseminate information and promote interest and involvement in the various programs. First, information about the programs was provided to staff through agency publications which was not successful in encouraging people to get involved. The next program promotion effort was to have the project director attend 21 area staff meetings to promote activities. This effort took a lot of time from the project director’s normal position responsibilities as well as time out of the normal meeting agenda.

The second challenge was with the Smoking Cessation program. The project director did not realize the challenges of quitting smoking and the support smokers need in the quitting process. Smokers did not participate in the program as it did not meet their needs.

Solution: The project director and committee learned that the use of focus groups or surveys would help to determine what people really want and would be willing to participate in. They learned they had better success if they started an activity with a smaller group of really excited participants and then let the participant’s enthusiasm spread the word and encourage people to join into the activities when they were interested and ready. In order to develop a Smoking Cessation program to meet the needs of the participants, the project director visited with a focus group of smokers to determine their needs and wants and plans to use that information in developing the Smoking Cessation program.

Results: A total of 95 people out of the 400 staff and developmentally disabled people served by the Center for Independence participated in the various activities offered. The Center saw a reduction in use of sick leave by 16% which didn’t quite reach their 20% goal, however, this was a reduction of 1,701.10 hours of sick leave paid with an actual cost savings for the Center of Independence of $24,484.94. The Wellness Program was one factor in the decrease of number of sick days used. The other factor was a current decrease in the amount of sick leave that employees accrue for the year. The program organizers feel that keeping healthy living information at the forefront of people’s minds has influenced the overall behavior of all staff, not just participants in the activities offered. Another positive outcome is that the Center for Independence has improved their relationship with the Huron Middle School and has developed new relationships with the Nordby Center for Recreation and the United Methodist Church. The Center for Independence sees these other contacts as positive community connections and good public relations for their agency.

Future directions: Now that the structure of the program is set and the groundwork has been laid, the wellness program will be maintained, expanded and administered through the existing staff development committee. The Center for Independence plans to continue offering classes and information to small groups of staff and the developmentally disabled persons they serve. They hope to encourage participation through word of mouth of the program participants involved. The Center has ideas to create competitions between various areas to help motivate and involve people and create a connection with the agency. The point of the project is to create a culture of wellness. They plan to motivate staff members and developmentally disabled adults to participate for their own goal of having better health. The project director has revamped the Smoking Cessation program to better meet the smoker’s needs. They are starting over with the new Smoking Cessation program. If the program is successful for them, they will share the smoking cessation program information with others who are interested.

For more information about the Center for Independence Wellness Program contact Kristin Kline, PHR, kkline@cfindependence.com.