The pandemic has provided us with many lessons and for Babylon Town officials, it has highlighted the impact that self-care – or lack thereof – can have on workers.
As a result, the city began implementing a holistic health and wellness program focusing on medical health, mental resilience, and physical fitness. Elements of the program began rolling out last year and are now being scaled up.
“We understood during COVID that if we weren’t healthy, it breaks down everything that’s going on here,” said city supervisor Rich Schaffer. “So we decided it was important to have a program where we teach you how to take care of your health and well-being.”
The city has hired Radish Health, a Manhattan-based concierge healthcare company that helps connect employees to medical care. The company runs bi-weekly clinics at the North Babylon Town Hall Annex, where employees can get blood tests, flu shots and other services. Workers can also be put in touch with a nutritionist or doctor.
The work is billed through the employee’s insurance, and Radish is paid $15 per employee per month. The city has more than 400 employees enrolled in the program and has so far paid the company $158,880. Babylon has budgeted $80,000 for the venture this year.
To combat mental health, the city has hired TLC Virtual Resiliency, a Brooklyn-based company that provides virtual mental health help with skills such as coping and stress management. The company has hosted a dozen group sessions and has been paid $44,694 so far.
For fitness, the city hired Rob Labiento, Schaffer’s business owner and personal trainer, for $90 an hour. He was also appointed Director of the Health and Wellness Program. Schaffer did not seek an ethics committee decision on hiring, but abstained in the vote to hire him. Labiento has received $10,297 to date.
Employees can attend two one-hour classes each week with Labiento at the West Babylon Youth Center, as long as their job duties are covered. The equipment was donated by Babylon IDA.
Schaffer said the goal is to have healthier employees who become a “better representative” for the city. He also thinks the program will help reduce the city’s insurance costs.
Schaffer said the city modeled the program on those implemented by large corporations.
“We want to make this a cultural shift within the city and get as many people as possible to change their way of thinking,” Schaffer said.
Janine Nicole Dennis, director of innovations at Talent Think Innovations, a Wheatley Heights-based management consultancy, said Babylon’s program is part of a growing trend of employers trying to deliver more holistic benefits sought by employers. workers in light of the “great resignation” that has been triggered by the pandemic.
“I think the last few years have been a rude awakening of how people really feel about the work environment and also their willingness to walk away from it all in the face of mental health, if not a best opportunity,” she said.
City Clerk Gerry Compitello said at the height of the pandemic, several employees in her office saw their health decline from being pre-diabetic to registering high cholesterol. Since her staff have been using Radis and TLC and taking the fitness classes, she has noticed a marked difference.
“They sit straighter, their aches and pains go away,” Compitello said. “It has done wonders for morale in the office. . . It really just created a positive environment here and it benefits voters.
Physical and mental impacts of the pandemic
As of June 30, 2020, 41% of American adults had delayed or avoided medical care, including urgent or emergency care.
Conditions reported to be most affected by delayed care: diabetes, COPD, high blood pressure, heart disease, asthma, cancer and depression.
This year, 31.5% of Americans reported symptoms of anxiety or depression, up from 10.8% in 2019.
Sources: Centers for Disease Control; National Library of Medicine; US Census Bureau Household Survey