The city of Providence and Providence-based Health First CHC will continue an experimental employee health services program that was launched last fall.

The program was created to offer city employees access to health services through any of Health First’s clinics in Western Kentucky. Those services include family practice medical care, mental health care, women’s health care and even eye exams. But despite the array of services being offered, the program has been under utilized. Health First Chief Operating Officer Jack Merrill told the city council on Monday that only $1,500 of the budgeted $30,000 in services have been used since the program went into effect.

“There are a lot of benefits here that are being utilized,” he said. “We’ve come to understand that perhaps there has been a misunderstanding in how the program works.”

Merrill said that he plans to hold small group informational meetings with city employees to explain how the program works, stressing that the services are available even to employees who have private healthcare insurance or who have insurance through a spouse. In that case, the program would cover the patient’s co-pay.

Meetings will start with department heads, and then move on to other city employees.

Merrill added that although it is not currently available, Health First is in negotiations to ad dental care to its growing list of services. Once that is available, it too will be offered as part of the program.

“Everything we have is available to city employees,” Merrill said.

The council approved a one year extension to the program. In order to be eligible, employees must enroll in the program, which comes at no charge.

Council members also approved the first reading of an update to the employee manual, adding in another benefit to city employees.

Once the amendment is finalized, all full time city employees are eligible for a free membership at the Providence Municipal Golf and Recreation Center (PMGRC). This does not cover golf cart rental fees or pool fees. Memberships are also available to the spouses and children of employees at half price.

The amendment will also include free once-per-year usage of the Providence Community Center. The employee must schedule their free rental of the facility, which is available on a first-come-first-serve basis, with the clerk’s office.

On Monday night the council also heard from former city employee Ralph Alexander, who urged council members to be active in planning the future of Providence.

“Providence needs help, and we need to be the ones to do it,” he said. “We can’t do it by saying ‘let someone else handle it.’ We need to handle it.”

Alexander told the council that he had a vision for the uptown area of Providence, which was once an active and focal point of the city. He wants to see the mostly abandoned buildings in the uptown area saved and put back into use, even if it means removing the crumbling upper floors of some of them.

“Just think if we had something up there that would draw a crowd to Providence,” he stated. “If we had a steak house in uptown, if the buildings were safe and people had a place they could eat. We want people to come to Providence. We want them to shop in Providence. We want them to do business in Providence.”

Alexander urged the council to get together with each other and the citizens of Providence to discuss their own visions for the future of the city.

“Its not just a vision, its about the hope for Providence,” he said. “Lets do something. Lets let the people of Providence see that you are doing something.”

Mayor Doug Hammers invited Alexander and any other concerned citizens or business owners to attend the next meeting of Providence Forward, which is scheduled for Monday, June 1 at 5:30 p.m. in the Community Center.

Contact Matt Hughes at matt@journalenterprise.com or 270-667-2069