Page 37 - March 2021
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What do you do about this? Dr. Robert Sobo, director of the Department’s Pro- fessional Counseling Division, has an idea, a message he has been conveying at every roll call he visits.
“Realize that you are not living your life,” he discloses. “Sometimes, the qual- ity of life lost in the decline of physical well-being is such a slow, insidious pro- cess that officers forget or don’t realize they are not well. But just because that can be a consequence of the job doesn’t mean you have to be a victim of it.”
That’s where Lodge 7’s plan for a new health benefits program might make a profound difference. In January, Catan- zara led a Lodge 7 delegation to Phila- delphia to meet with Jack Gaittens, the administrator for the Law Enforcement Health Benefits (LEHB) program for all Philly FOP Lodge 5 members.
The Chicago FOP has begun studying how to create a program similar to the LEHB that has been in existence for 30 years, is part of the union’s collective bar- gaining agreement, costs members ex- actly zero dollars, has no deductible and provides medical, dental, optical and prescription coverage. There are some small copays: $15 for a primary care vis- it, $25 for an ER visit and $5 for a 30-day supply of medication.
The city subsidizes the entire plan. Each year, the program has a budget of the previous year’s actual costs plus an increase based on the predicted inflation rate. If actual costs for the year come in under budget, the city and the members split the savings.
“We are in it to protect our officers’ benefits, because the goal is to leave their benefits alone,” Gaittens explained. “The bottom line is that it should be no cost to them. And it’s in our best interest to keep the city’s costs down, because it leads to contractual raises in our benefits, pen- sions and everything.”
The LEHB is very aggressive. The pro- gram employs two full-time nurses. It goes to districts, the academy and even FOP headquarters to do health screen- ings, blood draws, body mass index eval- uations and anything preventative it can to identify problems early.
There is a disease management pro- gram through one of Philly’s largest healthcare systems. There is a smoking cessation program. The nurses follow up on every test every member gets. Recent- ly, the LEHB put together a team of 15 nurses to administer COVID vaccines it procured for members-only vaccination at the police academy, where officers were in and out in less than 30 minutes.
“We remove the hurdles. We remove the barriers,” Gaittens added. “And the preventative maintenance pays off huge in the long run.”
In March, the LEHB is opening a fa- cility that has an LA Fitness-style health club for law enforcement only. The facil- ity also includes space where a dietitian can work with members suffering from obesity, which features a kitchen where they learn how to prepare healthy meals. Confidential behavioral health services are located on the second floor.
For Gaittens, the LEHB is more than a labor of love. It’s a labor of necessity, and as a retired deputy police commander who served for 35 years, he offers a per- spective that should inspire all Lodge 7 members to take every measure to live a good life.
“If you have healthier officers, they are more self-confident, so they’re less likely to use excessive force,” he reasoned. “If you have healthier officers, they’re stron- ger and less likely to get injured.”
This is where the story ends. For now. What Lodge 7 wants members to know, what members can do to honor Detec- tive Geoffrey Woitel, what they need to think about every day, is how to make living life to the fullest a way of life.

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