The Essex County Board of Freeholders and County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. co-hosted a presentation for about 50 local officials to explain the county's new "Essex County Wellness Discount Program" Thursday, June 10, in the Freeholder Chambers at the Hall of Records.

The discount program, which is offered to all Essex County residents free-of-charge and without regard to age or incom.

The invited guests included mayors, municipal council members, clerks and administrators, health officers, library directors and school superintendents.

The program is patterned after Bergen County's wellness discount program, said Freeholder President Blonnie R. Watson of Newark.

The Bergen County program has been in operation for the past two and one-half years, said Watson who added that the Freeholder Board and the Essex County Administration have, "...joined hands to implement this discount program that will save Essex County residents significant amounts of money during these difficult times, when people are having a hard time paying their rents and mortgages, and especially their bills for medical services and supplies."

"I commend Freeholder President Blonnie Watson and the entire Board of Freeholders for bringing the Wellness Program to Essex County," DiVincenzo said.

The county executive called it a win-win situation for county residents and the county, in that the more it is used by residents, the more they save individually, the more revenue the program will also put into the county's coffers at a rate of 50 cents per prescription filled.

The "Essex County Wellness Discount Program" is a shared service initiative between the County of Essex and the County of Bergen operating under the umbrella of United Networks of America, Inc., a networking company that is one of the largest providers of value-added managed care products and services with more than 240,000 participating providers serving more than 72.4 million members.

It is not an insurance policy, but rather an easy-to-use discount program. There is enrollment or eligibility requirements to meet and the program is available to any Essex County resident.

The program's Prescription Drug Card offers discounts ranging from 10 to 75 percent on prescription drugs purchased at local pharmacies and national chain stores such as CVS, WAL-MART, Safeway, K-Mart Pharmacy, Walgreen's, Kroger, Target, Stop & Shop and others.

Additionally, the Prescription Drug Card even offers discounts of up to 50 percent on human equivalent prescriptions for pet medications.

The Essex County Wellness Discount Program brochure explains various components and provides respective Web site addresses and toll-free numbers, may be viewed and printed by visiting freeholders.essexcountynj.org and clicking "Essex County Wellness Discount Program" under the "Information From Freeholders Office" heading.