When ITT Technical Institute closed its doors last year, a new door opened for Clovis Unified.
The district, which has its district headquarters right down the street, jumped at the opportunity to acquire the building and completed the purchase of the 25,000 square-foot site in January with plans to use the majority of the space for its curriculum, instruction and assessment department and professional services. About 20 percent of the massive building, however, will be dedicated to constructing a health center for CUSD employees, retirees and their dependents currently insured through a district health plan.
Associate Superintendent Steve Ward said the district has been working on the concept of an employee health center for at least three years. Large employers like Apple and Amazon, he said, commonly offer an employee health center and mid-sized businesses, such as Clovis Unified, are now beginning to establish these health centers as well to offer a cost-savings option to their employees.
The district, Ward said, currently has 12,000 people in the Fresno-Clovis area who use district health benefits—between 3,200 and 3,300 are current employees, 1,000 are retirees, and the remaining participants are spouses and children of CUSD employees and retirees.
Given the number of people who could benefit from an employee health center, Ward said the district quickly began the process of establishing such a center two years ago and in July 2016, after a 12-month search, the district decided to partner with miCare, which will be responsible for operating the center. Last fall, the district then started searching for two office spaces to lease in order to create two health centers, however when the ITT building became available, the district decided it would be better to own one larger health center than to lease two smaller ones.
“We were in the middle of this process a year ago when the ITT Tech school went bankrupt,” Ward said. “As soon as it hit the news, we began looking at that building. The district is obviously very familiar with the building and we wanted to purchase it. It is right across the street from our current headquarters, which is centrally located within the district as Doc Buchanan anticipated it would be when he purchased the spot for our district offices many years ago. We wanted the ITT Tech building so we negotiated with the owner and they were willing to sell it. It was a good price for that size building—it would cost much more to construct something like it ourselves—and it came with four acres of land. We did an inspection to see if part of it could be carved out for a health center and that’s how we ended up where we are.”
The health center will offer services typical of those provided by a primary care physician and some services also provided by urgent care centers. There will be no specialists on site and no x-ray services, but employees and their families will be able to schedule their physicals and other preventative care appointments there and can also go there to seek treatment for common ailments like the flu. Lab work will also be able to be done on site and the center will also carry common medications, such as antibiotics, so a separate trip to the pharmacy won’t be necessary.
Ward said the center will benefit employees that use it in several ways. First, he said those using the center will save money on copays.
“Right now under our health insurance plans, there is a $25 copay for office visits and lab work, but there will be no copay for those things at this center,” Ward said. “That is where the majority of savings for the employees will be. That is important because we have been trying to find a way to reduce costs as health care costs are rising, both for our self-insured fund as an employer and the costs for the employees through premiums, deductibles, and copays. This eliminates the copay which is a significant savings.”
The health center will also operate under a different, more convenient structure. Hours will be more flexible, with the center opening earlier in the morning and staying open later in the evening and perhaps even having some Saturday hours so employees won’t have to leave work to see the doctor. The center will also have shorter wait times for patients and patients will also be able to spend more face-to-face time with the doctor, as the clinicians at the center will be salaried rather than paid per service provided. This, Ward said, will prevent the overbooking that often occurs at most regular clinics.
The 5,000 square-foot health center will include eight exam rooms, a lab, a reception area and an office space for doctors and clinicians.
While CUSD will be paying the costs for the center, under California law the district cannot hire the doctors and other employees at the health center. Instead, miCare will take charge of hiring staff and day-to-day operations will be conducted by the doctors, similar to a regular doctor’s office.
Construction on the center should be completed by the beginning of January, Ward said, and the goal is to have the center up and running by March of 2018.