Travis County Commissioners consider alternative therapy program to help employees stop smoking


by Quita Culpepper / KVUE News

Posted on July 13, 2010 at 6:19 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jul 14 at 10:07 AM

Should Travis County pay for smoking cessation programs for county employees?

It is a habit doctors say can shorten your life by decades. Now, Travis County Commissioners are considering a program using alternative therapy that would help their employees kick their smoking habit.

“I've been smoking for about 10 years, since I was 15 years old,” said Danikae Doetsch. “Up until recently I'd been at a pack a day. “ 
Doetsch, a Travis County employee, joined the county’s smoking cessation program, and smokes much less. In fact, she says she is ready to kiss her cigarettes goodbye for good.
According to Travis County officials, an estimated 21 percent of the more than 4,000 employees smoke. That is about 945 people.
Last year, 79 Travis County workers took part in the smoking cessation program. Twenty-six successfully quit smoking. Twenty dropped out due to side effects from the medications. It is unknown what happened to the 33 others; they are assumed to still be smoking.
Dr. Hari Dhir, head of the County's Wellness Clinic, hopes to make the stop smoking program more successful. Tuesday morning, he told County Commissioners about what he calls the benefits of hypnotherapy; an alternative treatment using hypnosis to change a person's habits and curb cigarette consumption.
“It's similar to having a tool box and having a project to do, the more tools you have the more likely you are to be successful in the project,” Dr. Dhir said. “The hypnotherapy will be integrated with behavioral approaches which will be tailored to each individual, and I think that's why the success rates are pretty high.”
Dr. Dhir is asking Travis County to allocate about $12,000 to pay for the first year of a two-year hypnotherapy pilot program with Baylor University. 
One county employee who received hypnotherapy says she is now a believer. “In nine days I will have four months smoke free," said Melanie Collins. "I'm very proud of myself. And I would just like to say that the hypnotherapy I think was the biggest asset to this program as far as me being able to quit smoking.”
County officials say getting workers to stop smoking would not only help keep them healthy, it would help with insurance costs, which are going up this year.
Commissioners are expected to decide whether to fund the hypnotherapy program next week.