Inside the Wellness Pitstop That's Safeguarding the Health of Stagehands

June 15, 2017
By Joe Maniscalco

Welcome to Wellness!

New York, NY - Sore backs, bad knees and horrendous on-the-go eating habits so bad they could make a nutritionist wince and a cardiologist cringe — being a stagehand in this town sure takes a lot out of you. But since 2015, there’s been a spacial place on Broadway where IATSE Local One members, their families and retirees have been turning to for comprehensive care and holistic support. 

Located on the sixth floor of the union hall’s 320 West 46th Street headquarters, IATSE Local One’s Wellness Center features an electronically integrated medical kiosk linked to board certified physicians, a cloistered “recharge room” perpetually bathed in soothing soft-blue light and a registered nurse in Healthcare Coordinator Mary Kelly who perfectly personifies the dedicated diligence Florence Nightingale successfully pioneered in the 19th century. 

By 2:45 p.m. this past Tuesday, about 44 members had already dropped in on the Wellness Center to check out the facilities for themselves during an all-day open house aimed at reaching as many hardworking stagehands as possible, and introducing them to the program’s “Eat And Move Better - Work And Live Better” philosophy. In all, more than 60 stagehands attended the event. 

“There are a lot of people that are working who have bad backs, bad knees — and I think they probably don’t get them taken care as much as they should,”  Cort Theatre House Head   Rebecca Heroff  told LaborPress. “So, to have a place like this available to come and ask questions is really great.”

Thomas Hague stopped into the Local One Wellness Center this week to get some expert advice on some knee problems he’s recently been experiencing after 25 years on the job. 

“This is really something — I didn’t realize it was this big,” Hague said. 

In addition to the expert diagnostic testing and “Recharge Room” where beleaguered stagehands can take advantage of a full-body massage chair and personal music system — Local One’s Wellness Center is also launching a smoking cessation program to help workers kick the habit. The pilot program for 10 will run approximately to seven to eight weeks and include six months of followup with Kelly. 

“It’s all about a holistic lifestyle,” Kelly said. “That’s what we’re trying to promote.” 

Open during normal business hours Monday through Friday, the Wellness Center will often stay open later to better accommodate members and their complex work schedules. 

About 2,000 active members and their families, as well as another 500 retirees are free to take advantage of all the Wellness Center has to offer. So far, the center has been accommodating about 20 members a week — but Kelly and company want to see many more walk through their doors. 

“We’ve got these folks from cradle to the grave,” Director of Fund Administration Scott Cool said. “The children of stagehands eventually retire with us. To make any kind of dent in their wellness profile over time is going to be huge for us.”

While it’s still too early to quantify the amount of healthcare dollars the union’s Welfare Fund is saving through the Wellness Center’s outreach efforts, the facility’s director says that the assistance that Kelly is able to provide members navigating a labyrinthine healthcare system justifies the cost, and that longterm savings are just “gravy.” 

“It’s an experiment, but one that I think has gone well so far,” Cool said. 

After a quick test run during Tuesday’s open house, stagehand Catherine Klemann emerged from the “Recharge Room” feeling surprisingly happy and refreshed. 

“I’ll definitely try it again,” Klemann said. 

This week’s open house at IATSE Local One’s Wellness Center comes ahead of another IATSE Wellness Fair slated for June 25, at the Westin Hotel between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. 

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