CDS Monarch has long sought to help its employees stay healthy.

“We’ve had some type of wellness program in place at least since 2008,” says Sarah Norton, human resource manager for health and safety. “Through the years, it’s continued to grow.”

Webster-based CDS Monarch has provided services to meet the needs of disabled people since it opened its doors in 1977.

“We work with people with developmental and emotional disablities, as well as veterans who have experienced either post-traumatic stress disorders or traumatic brain injuries,” Norton says.

CDS Monarch provides a variety of programs for those it serves, from day programs that allow them to express themselves through drama and music to employment training. It employs about 575 people.

CDS Monarch uses a variety of ways to nudge employees toward healthy choices. In biometric clinics, held during health insurance open enrollment periods, employees have their blood pressure and cholesterol levels measured and fill out a health risk assessment. Those at risk for medical problems are given information on ways they can deal with the risks.

“If somebody is a tobacco user, we will provide the information for tobacco cessation,” says Norton, who leads the agency’s 25-person wellness committee.

CDS Monarch will also cover the cost of the tobacco cessation program. Employees who pass the assessments receive discounts on their health insurance premiums; an individual can save close to $24 per pay period.

For those interested in becoming healthier, Norton’s committee offers a different program each quarter. About 170 CDS Monarch employees and members of their families gathered in teams last April and signed up for the Eat Well, Live Well Challenge. Top scorers take home prizes.

“The team with the most steps gets the thumbs-up trophy,” Norton says.

When the competition ends on June 22, the overall winners will be given more substantial prizes, she says.

Other programs include the I Heart My Heart challenge, which encouraged employees to take small steps toward better heart health, and a “biggest loser” competition.

CDS Monarch employees seeking more strenuous exercise than they might get through walking can head over to the non-profit’s gym at its main offices. Staff members working in group homes can join in the exercise programs the non-profit arranges for the people it serves; there’s even one that uses hula hoops. The organization also supports employees who want to exercise on their own.

“We have an annual $200 reimbursement that they can utilize towards gym memberships, exercise equipment (and) weight management programs,” Norton explains.

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