After nearly three years of discussion and planning, Catoosa County has opened its first Employee Health Clinic.

The facility, which opened Oct. 2 at 313 Boynton Drive in the Remco Business Center, is specifically for county employees and their dependents.

County officials, employees, and members of the Chamber of Commerce were on hand for the ribbon-cutting ceremony, at which time County Manager Jim Walker expressed his excitement for the venture.

"This is a major muscle movement in the life of our county to be able to provide a service like this to the employees of our county," Walker said. "We have a private insurance carrier, and we pay over $5 million per year in premiums. We think we can lower our premiums by having the clinic."

Walker spoke about the efficiency of the clinic and how it will offer a lot of positives for county employees.

"This way it's free to our employees and their dependents that are on the county's plan," he said. "They pay no co-pay, they can get free generic, non-narcotic medicine, and our goal is to drive the cost of our healthcare down and to have a healthier workforce."

The running of the clinic is comprised of a partnership with Chattanooga, Tenn.-based One to One Health LLC, which will manage the day-to-day operations of the facility.

"We're all about taking care of each and every individual to the best of our ability," said Dr. Keith Helton, CEO of One to One Health. "We want to create a warm, welcoming environment for every employee so that they'll feel free come in and use us."

Board of Commissioners Chairman Steven Henry and Commissioner Jim Cutler both believe the clinic will be a huge benefit to the county.

"It's going to be a great thing," Henry said. "Along with saving money and saving on the insurance rates, early detection is a big thing nowadays, so we want our employees to use this clinic.

"It's a win-win for the county," Cutler added. "A lot of people put medical care off, so this gives them the opportunity to come and get medical attention when they need it."

County Chief Financial Officer Carl Henson has budgeted $25,000 per month or $300,000 per year, for the clinic. One to One's portion of the budget will take up $17,500 per month for the management fee and personnel costs. Rent on the building is $1,800 per month, and Walker says $500 per month is budgeted for utilities.

Overall, if premium prices drop considerably due to the clinic, the endeavor should be well worth the investment.

"It's a project," Walker said. "It's a process, and I appreciate the commissioners stepping up and giving us an opportunity to see if this works and become a great benefit for our employees."

The clinic is open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., from 2-6 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and then closed Saturdays, Sunday, and holidays.

Employees can walk in or make an appointment by calling 423-402-8176.

Adam Cook is a general assignment reporter and covers the Walker-Catoosa County area. He has been a reporter since 2009. He can be reached at The Catoosa County News office at 706-935-2621 and by email at acook@npco.com.