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Kickin' butts 'n gettin' healthy

December 31, 2008
Missy Stroud is on a mission — a mission to help Crawford County kick the smoking habit. And now Stroud and one of the largest employers in the county are on the same page — promoting a more productive workforce and a healthier community.

Stroud, who is the Crawford County representative of the Indiana Tobacco Prevention and Cessation (ITPC) program, has been working diligently to reduce the use of tobacco in the county through promotional programs and information in elementary schools, businesses and public buildings. But when she approached Jasper Engines and Transmissions about the program, she was pleasantly surprised to learn the company had already been working on similar goals.

The company, with area locations in Jasper and Leavenworth, has a number of programs in place to help employees and spouses become tobacco free.

"We truly care about our associates and want them to be as healthy as possible," the company's president, Doug Bawel, said in a press release. "While we understand there's a positive financial impact for the company when associates are tobacco free, what's really important is that we do as much as we can to support our associates in living a healthy lifestyle. Offering tobacco cessation programs is a big part of that support."

At Jasper, Bawel said, communication regarding tobacco usage starts on day one, when the tobacco policy is shared with new employees. The policy states that no smoking is allowed in any facility or vehicle the company owns. Tobacco products are only permitted in a limited number of designated areas outside company facilities.

Among the most successful cessation programs implemented by Jasper was the introduction of Chantix in 2008. Chantix is a non-nicotine medication that has been prescribed to more than six million people in the United States.

In the company's three-month Chantix program, employees and/or their spouses first obtain a prescription from their doctor. Jasper will then give the employee a voucher with which they'll receive a discount at selected area pharmacies when their prescription is filled.

If the participant remains tobacco free for six months, following completion of the program, they can submit for a full reimbursement for the doctor visit and first month of Chantix. Upon 12 months of being tobacco free after completing the program, participants can submit a reimbursement for the remaining two months of Chantix, essentially turning it into a free program. To date, 20 employees and spouses have signed up for Chantix. Of those, seven have become tobacco free and 10 others are currently taking Chantix.

In addition to Chantix, Jasper also promotes a free phone support hotline and Web site called "GetQuit." The company is also partnering with Memorial Hospital and Healthcare Center in Jasper to provide tobacco cessation classes along with offering nicotine patches.

Based on feedback from both their Associate Advisory Committee and employee surveys, Jasper added a tobacco-free credit to their overall 2009 benefits package, whereby if the insured associate and spouse are in the process of becoming tobacco free, they could receive as much as a 10-percent-per-week credit on their health care costs. Also, the company, through various methods, is constantly educating employees about the impact of tobacco usage, both on the employees themselves as well as the company's health care costs.

"Through the programs and communication we provide, we've seen improvement in health care costs throughout the company — and in the overall health of our associates," Bawel said. "However, there is still a long way to go. But we knew this when we began this initiative. For Jasper Engines and Transmissions, the journey is just beginning."

Stroud met with State Sen. Richard Young, D-Milltown, on Monday to discuss the smoking cessation program she is promoting in the county and received his full support.

"I received congratulations from Sen. Young," Stroud said. "He believes it is a progressive and forward-thinking program. And he believes that the program at Jasper Engines and Transmissions is a role model for employers and workforce. He totally supports the cause. He admits that it may take a while to get people on board with this, but he also believes the county needs a program to work on the problem of nicotine addiction.

"After the first of the year, I plan to work more with the school system and promote the program with other businesses. I want to get the word out about our 1-800-Quit Now hotline, which is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to midnight. People who call can get a two-week supply of nicotine gum or patches free of charge.

"We have the solutions if a person really wants to quit. And, like Sen. Young said, we'll just keep on working on one person at a time. That's the way we'll go."

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