Personnel director rewards government employees for participating in annual health risk assessment

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V.I. Personnel Director Kenneth Hermon Jr. got to play Santa again this year, visiting the "good" government employees who took the annual health risk assessment and giving them Kmart gift cards and administrative leave.

"We wanted to spread a little Christmas cheer a little early for those who completed the health risk assessment on," Hermon said. "All the information is required so Cigna gets a better picture of the health of the workforce."

This year 1,478 employees completed the assessment, and those who did got $25 gift cards to Kmart.

"In addition to the gift cards, the governor has authorized me to give each employee eight hours of leave on Dec. 31," Hermon said.

Those who must work that day, such as first responders, can negotiate with their supervisors to take another day off instead, he said.

The annual assessment is free for government employees and should be done each year, according to Hermon.

The program is voluntary, but Hermon is trying to get more people to participate in the program because the government's health insurance premiums could drop based on how many employees are involved. As part of the government's health package, each person gets one free wellness visit to the doctor each year to do the health risk assessment, Hermon said.

On Monday, Hermon visited the departments that had the highest levels of participation. The V.I. Human Services Department had 60 percent of their approximately 800 employees participate, according to Hermon. Government House had 80 percent participation, he said.

The Personnel Division had 100 percent participation, he noted.

The wellness program is good for the employees and the taxpayers, Hermon said. By getting an assessment of an employee's health, a doctor can begin preventative treatments before a major - and often expensive - health crisis hits later on in that person's life.

The more expensive medical treatments that are avoided, the lower the territory's insurance premiums will be - saving money for the government and the individual government worker as well, Hermon said.

In 2011, the government entered into a five-year health benefits package with Connecticut General Life Insurance Company - known as Cigna. As part of the agreement, Cigna gave the government $1 million - to be spread out over the five years - to promote wellness among government workers.

Hermon said this year, beginning in January, Cigna has dedicated $400,000 that the Division of Personnel can use to host wellness events.

"It's our mission to totally maximize and exhaust those funds," he said.

Personnel soon will roll out the Healthy Employees and Retirees Opportunities reward program - the HERO Program - which gives incentives for preventative health activities.

For example, employees will be able to earn a second free dental cleaning, get $25 for doing an annual eye exam and get $25 for doing a health and wellness examination.

"So, beginning in January, we have a few incentives for employees to actively participate in prevention," Hermon said. "We want them to be more cognizant that their health has a direct coalition on the health insurance premiums that come out of their paychecks on a bi-weekly basis," he said.

"We need to take every opportunity to lead a healthier lifestyle, which hopefully will lead to a longer life," Hermon said.

In the new year, the division also plans to launch a series of public fitness classes, which will be free for government employees, and will be in parks and public locations so anyone can participate in getting fit.

For more information, contact Personnel at 774-8588 on St. Thomas and 718-0341 on St. Croix.

- Contact reporter Aldeth Lewin at 714-9111 or email

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