Police pension group OKs hypnosis

Meghann M. Cuniff The Spokesman-Review A retired Spokane police officer will have his hypnosis weight-loss therapy paid for by city tax money.

Members of the Spokane Police Pension and Relief Board unanimously approved the unusual claim from board member Gary Gow at its meeting Thursday.

Gow, who retired from the Spokane Police Department in 1985 after 20 years of service, abstained from voting. He’s been a member of the pension board for 21 years.

The board agreed to pay $2,207 for the nine-month program.

Gow is required to submit a treatment plan and progress notes regarding his weight loss.

Gow said he expects the therapy to become a widely covered practice in the private insurance industry.

“I think that in time you’ll see a lot of this covered,” Gow said after the meeting. “They never used to pay for heart transplants, but they do now.”

The therapy is an example of unusual practices paid for through the pension and relief board, which manages health insurance and pensions for the city’s retired police officers. Washington’s Law Enforcement Officers and Firefighters Plan 1 pension system, which was replaced by a more modest retirement plan in 1977, calls for cities to provide retired police employees with free lifelong coverage of anything deemed “necessary medical services.”

The board previously has approved services including non-emergency flights, penile implants and Viagra and other anti-impotence drugs. Requests for unusual services are voted on by board members at their monthly meeting.

“There’s a lot of medical things that go on like this at every meeting,” said board member Ron Vanos.

No one could recall if the board had ever before approved a claim that paid for a retiree to undergo hypnosis to aid weight loss.

“We always consider the effectiveness of the treatment,” said City Council President Joe Shogan, board president.

Shogan said the board’s first priority is the retiree’s health and welfare, and the second is the cost of the treatment.

“It’s a balance,” Shogan said.