The For-Profit/Non-Profit Double Standard

What is it that we most want non-profits and charities to do? A simple answer: We want them to help as many people as they can, as effectively as they can. Whether it’s poverty, homelessness, devastating diseases, addiction or any of the many other problems non-profits seek to address —we want as many as possible to get help that will make a real difference in their lives.

You can make a rough analogy here to the for-profit world. All businesses want to increase profits, and a corporation wants to generate the greatest amount of profits for its shareholders.

But it turns out that for-profit and non-profit entities operate under two completely different rulebooks. I recently saw a fascinating TED Talk by Dan Pallotta, a prominent social activist and fundraiser, in which he identified several key areas where this double standard exists (see tinyurl.com/ouekj7f). I’d like to focus on a few of them:

1. Advertising and Marketing
Ask any corporation — or for that matter, any successful small businessperson — what would happen to their sales if they suddenly stopped advertising. They would tumble, and growth would falter.

Yet some feel there’s something wrong with non-profits advertising their activities and marketing the good they do, just like for-profits. The result is fewer people who need their services find them, and fewer people who support them with their dollars are given an incentive to do so.

2. Taking Risk
When it comes to taking risk in pursuit of new ideas, for-profits are encouraged to take risk, create a new innovative product, even though this new idea might flop. These attempts are viewed as part of the business process.

However, when a non-profit tries a new idea or fundraiser that flops, the company’s credibility is on the line. This, in turn, makes that organization reluctant to try new things in fear of failure. If you kill innovation, you can’t raise more revenue. If you can’t raise revenue, you can’t grow and therefore can’t address important issues.

3. Time
It’s not uncommon for a for-profit company to invest money in their company and not see a return for at least five years. This is acceptable because the business world understands long-term planning and the need to invest now to make the company profitable in the long term.

But if a non-profit company invests money into the company and does not see a direct return quickly, questions are raised as to why the non-profit cannot produce results.

The motivation behind these non-profit views is well-intentioned: we want as much of a non-profit’s revenues to go to “the people” or “the cause” as possible, and with no delay. But as Dan Pallotta points out, it’s also short-sighted. Whether it’s time or money, we want to keep “overhead” down to a very small slice of the pie — yet we fail to realize that the size of the pie is not fixed.

Imagine that a non-profit’s overhead increased by 10 percent (let’s say from 5 to 15 percent) between 2013 and 2014. But in that same year, its overall revenues grew by 60 percent. That means it was able to help 50 percent more people in 2014 than it did in 2013. And back to our original question — that’s the goal, isn’t it?

Just as in the for-profit world, “growth” is not a dirty word for non-profits. On the contrary, it’s a vital one. So when you consider support for a non-profit or charity, look at the big picture. How many people has it helped this year compared with previous years? That, ultimately, is what matters.

Laughter = Best Medicine…Turns Out It’s True!

In July 2015, Meridian HealthCare sponsored a “Sunday Night Live Comedy Show” at the DeYor to benefit prevention and recovery programs in the Valley. The featured performer was Mark Lundholm, a nationally known stand-up comic who has appeared in all 50 states and 10 foreign countries.

We brought Mark here first and foremost because he’s screamingly funny. But there’s another reason: Mark has been in recovery for more than 20 years. While his show was designed to appeal to a general audience, his comedy frequently touches on themes that relate to addiction. In fact, his hugely successful one-man off-Broadway show is entitled “Addicted: a comedy of substance.”

Mark performed a special private show earlier that day for some of Meridian’s recovery clients that dealt directly with these issues. Your first reaction might be that addiction to drugs and alcohol is nothing to laugh about. But while addiction is certainly a serious matter, laughter can actually be an important and very effective part of the recovery process.

The role laughter plays in general physical and mental health has been studied extensively. We know that laughter relieves physical tension and stress and relaxes your muscles; that it increases blood flow and boosts the immune system; and that it triggers release of endorphins, which promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.

But laughter can also be particularly beneficial to those in recovery. Here are several reasons why:

  • Laughter helps put things in perspective. After a long history of loss (financial, employment, relationships, etc.), laughter helps to lighten the mood and give those in recovery hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
  • Laughter can dissolve anger and other distressing emotions. It helps you to relax and recharge, and can actually increase energy levels. All of this is important to those in recovery, who need to bring positive energy to the hard work they’re doing.
  • Persons who are addicted tend to be very focused on themselves — the problems that surround them, the pain they’re enduring, the stress of their daily lives. Laughter helps those in recovery change the focus and dissipate some of the gloom. In particular, those who learn to laugh at themselves and not take themselves so seriously have taken an important step on the road to recovery.
  • Sharing laughter in a group setting helps break the cycle of isolation that is often a part of addiction. It’s a universal language that bridges the distance between people of different cultures and circumstances, and fosters a sense of inclusiveness and belonging.

From a physiological perspective, there are similarities in the way the brain reacts to addictive substances and laughter. Stanford University research has found that cocaine, amphetamines, and almost every other recreational drug increase dopamine levels in a specific part of the brain. Researchers discovered that when test subjects reacted to funny cartoons, their laughter lit up that very same brain reward circuitry. So laughter can actually be a part of the process of “rewiring” the circuitry of the brain, so that those suffering from addiction can feel good without resorting to drugs.

Regardless of our condition, every one of us can benefit by adding some laughter to our lives. So rent a funny movie or seek out the classic comics of days gone by on YouTube; share a joke with friends; do something silly; or simply laugh for no reason at all. And don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself from time to time! It’ll do you a world of good.

Savvy Businesspeople Investigate Preventative Care Services for Their Employees

The word “cliché” often carries a negative connotation as something tired and worn-out. On the other hand, many often-used sayings become clichés precisely because they happen to be true.

Here’s one of them: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” This well-worn phrase actually has an important application to today’s modern workplace — and all the more so as the workforce ages and more health issues arise.

Statistics offer a note of caution for both workers and their employers. According to a study by UnumProvident:

  • Medical costs rise an estimated 25 percent from age 40 to 50.
  • Medical costs rise an estimated 35 percent from age 50 to 60.
  • However, age is less of a factor in healthcare costs than the presence of risk factors, such as smoking, obesity, physical inactivity and diabetes.
  • High-risk 40- to 60-year-old workers incur two to three times higher medical costs than low-risk workers in the same age group.

Of course, employers feel the impact of these rising costs through their health insurance plans. But there’s a more practical, day-to-day impact, too. Obviously, healthy employees are productive employees — furthermore, they’re present and on the job. By contrast, employees in poorer health will miss more workdays, and won’t always be at their best when they are working.

These realities lead to a couple of simple questions: Why wait for health problems to occur among your employees before responding? Why not instead create a situation where they’re less likely to occur in the first place?

That’s the rationale behind Preventative Care programs, which are becoming more popular among employers who believe in being proactive about their employees’ health. Components of these programs can include:

  • Annual or semi-annual health checkups (some employers reduce employee payroll deductions for health insurance premiums for participants)
  • Information on lifestyle changes that can lessen the likelihood of illnesses or chronic conditions
  • An integrated approach to healthcare that encompasses an employee’s mental and emotional health as well as the physical

On that last note, it’s important to remember that it’s not just physical ailments that can adversely affect your workforce. A Statistical Brief prepared by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality notes that behavioral health conditions affect nearly one of five Americans and lead to healthcare costs of $57 billion a year, which is on par with cancer. That’s why more healthcare entities (including Meridian) are now integrating Behavioral Health and Primary Care.

Companies that have a Workforce Wellness program in place — such as the ones Meridian HealthCare offers or others I described in my February column — already have these tools at their disposal, and they’re enjoying very good results in terms of higher productivity and reduced absenteeism in their workforce.

But it’s not necessary to institute a formal Workforce Wellness program in order to bring some of these benefits to your firm. You can simply make it known that employees will find it advantageous to take steps to improve their overall health.

You might offer certain incentives to employees who promise to get more exercise, say by joining a gym or taking up walking or running. You could sponsor stop smoking programs (several excellent ones are available in our area) or seminars on healthy eating. There are also programs that focus on family relationships, relationships in the workplace, and many others having to do with employees’ day-to-day emotional well-being.

Many health problems are preventable. Employers who are proactive about their employees’ health benefit not just their workforce, but their own bottom line.

Larry Moliterno is CEO of Meridian HealthCare and currently serves as President of the Ohio Alliance of Recovery Providers. Send email to lmoliterno@MeridianCommunityCare.org

Be Aware of the Signs of Problem Gambling

March is one of my favorite months — not only because spring is right around the corner, but because of March Madness. If you’re a sports enthusiast like I am, you love filling out that bracket and watching to see if your team makes it to the finals.

But March Madness can also bring another pastime to the forefront: gambling. Many of us gamble responsibly and use it as a form of entertainment and enjoyment — and that’s fun and perfectly acceptable.

However, some begin to gamble excessively, and it becomes something more than just entertainment. Gambling can be a real problem when it gets in the way of work, school or other activities; harms your mental or physical health; hurts you financially; damages your reputation; or causes problems with your family or friends.

THE SCOPE OF THE PROBLEM

March is National Problem Gambling Awareness month, and we know from our own experience at Meridian that Problem Gambling cuts across all age groups, genders, economic strata and social situations.

Studies show that there may be as many as six to ten million problem gamblers in the United States. According to a study by Ohio Responsible Gambling, approximately 220,000 Ohioans engage in at-risk gambling, with 30,000 engaging in problem gambling behaviors.

SIGNS OF PROBLEM GAMBLING

Identifying problem gamblers isn’t an exact science, and just because someone gambles, doesn’t mean they are a Problem Gambler. But here are some common signs there might be a problem:

  • Preoccupation with gambling activities
  • Severe mood swings
  • Believing that life without gambling is impossible
  • Neglecting personal or work responsibilities to focus on gambling activities
  • Fantasizing about “this week’s win” to overcome “last week’s loss” and dreaming about “the big win”
  • Scheming to borrow money from friends and family
  • Considering illegal acts, such as stealing and forgery, as a means of financing gambling
  • Lying to conceal activity
  • Jeopardizing employment or school work due to gambling

 RULES OF RESPONSIBLE GAMBLING

  • Set a dollar limit and stick to it
  • Set a time limit and stick to it
  • Never gamble on credit
  • When gambling stops being fun, it’s time to stop gambling
  • Keep a balance in your life — gambling should never interfere with family, friends, or your job
  • Treat the money you lose as entertainment

HELP FOR PROBLEM GAMBLERS

Companies with Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) in place can offer immediate, no-cost help to workers who exhibit Problem Gambling signs. Meridian HealthCare has helped many companies in the area establish EAPs. Meridian also offers a specific Problem Gambling program led by a National Certified Gambling Counselor, featuring individual, group and family counseling.

Another resource to seek out is The Ohio Casino Control Commission, which maintains a Problem Gambling Helpline. Call 800-589-9966.

PROTECTING YOUR FINANCES

If you recognize that you have a gambling problem, you can take several steps to protect your finances:

  • Only carry the amount of cash you will need for one day’s expense
  • Cut up your credit and debit cards or give them to a friend or family member for safekeeping
  • Limit the amount of money you can withdraw in one day (talk with your bank)
  • Ask family and friends not to lend you money (or to invite you gambling)
  • Eliminate all other sources you might have for gambling money

Finally, look into the Ohio Casino Control Commission’s Voluntary Exclusion Program, which is designed to prevent problem gamblers from entering a casino by placing their names on a list of persons excluded from all such facilities in the state of Ohio. More information is available at www.casinocontrol.ohio.gov

 

Larry Moliterno is CEO of Meridian HealthCare and currently serves as President of the Ohio Alliance of Recovery Providers. Send email to lmoliterno@MeridianCommunityCare.org

Workforce Wellness: Not a Fad, but a Path to Real Savings

We’ve all seen more than a few fads and trends in our lifetimes. An activity, a celebrity or a dance style is huge for a while, but before long we look back and wonder “What were we thinking?”

Because the concept was so new and different when it first emerged a few years ago, some may have thought that Workforce Wellness would fall into the fad category. That is, it would have a buzz among a few early adopters, but would soon find its way onto the scrapheap of discarded ideas.

In fact, just the opposite has happened. Workforce Wellness has grown steadily as more companies realize that it can offer substantial benefits in terms of productivity, lowered insurance costs and a better bottom line.

WHAT’S BEHIND WORKFORCE WELLNESS?

Underlying the concept of Workforce Wellness is established fact. According to the Health Enhancement Research Organization, 50 to 70 percent of all diseases and medical problems are associated with or caused by modifiable health risks. If these risks can be identified early enough and addressed, future chronic illnesses can be prevented.

Though Workforce Wellness programs can take many forms, the basic idea behind them is simple. Companies make health-related services and activities available to their employees — either directly or by subsidizing employees’ use of outside programs. Employees who participate in these programs are more productive, are absent from work less frequently and file fewer health insurance claims.

REAL RESULTS, REAL SAVINGS

As these programs are taking hold, the data emerging reveals some valuable information. Studies looking at individual risk factors have found that employees with sedentary lifestyles can cost their employers $265 in excess healthcare spending per employee per year. And that’s at the low end of the scale. Obesity costs employers $541 per employee per year. The figures in employer costs per employee per year rise to $1,125 for stress, and $1,824 for depression. [Source: Cammack LaRhette: “Rationale for Biometric Screening”]

The point is, addressing these risk factors through Workforce Wellness programs can reduce these losses dramatically. A review of published studies shows that companies receive a Return on Investment of $3.48 for every dollar put into a Workforce Wellness program in terms of reduced medical costs, and $5.82 for every dollar invested in terms of reduced absenteeism.

DESIGN OF WORKFORCE WELLNESS PROGRAMS

The Affordable Care Act has more clearly defined the scope of Workforce Wellness programs. They fall into two broad categories:

  • Participatory Wellness Programs. These programs either do not provide rewards of any kind, or don’t require participants to meet any standard relating to a health factor. So they might take the form of a subsidized gym membership, or rewards for attending health education seminars or participation in a stop smoking program. The rewards are not contingent on any actual results from these activities.
  • Health-Contingent Wellness Programs. These programs may provide rewards in two categories: activity-only or outcome-based. In the first instance, employees are simply required to participate, but not to achieve any specific outcome. In the second case, specific targets are established, and employee success in meeting those targets is measured. If they fall short, they may be asked to participate in additional programs to achieve a reward. Additional restrictions are placed on the design of these programs.

MERIDIAN IS ON-BOARD

WorkLife by Meridian has made programs such as these available to Mahoning Valley businesses for several years. And we’re evaluating the success of this approach within our own company with our own employees. Results so far have been very encouraging.

 

Larry Moliterno is CEO of Meridian HealthCare and currently serves as President of the Ohio Alliance of Recovery Providers. Send email to lmoliterno@MeridianCommunityCare.org

Avoiding Holiday Stress…at Home and in the Workplace

Many of us vow every year to “get a jump on” the holidays so that everything doesn’t wind up being so last-minute and crazy. Of course, this is a very good idea — even though we sometimes fall a little short of the goal despite our best intentions and wind up stressed out.

While we usually think in terms of getting a jump on shopping, decorating and general holiday planning, this is actually a good strategy to apply in the workplace, too. So in addition to general tips to help everyone avoid holiday stress, we have some suggestions for both employees and employers that can make a difference at work.

Avoiding stress in the workplace

If you have one or more big projects looming in the final months of the year, it might be worth it to put in some extra work early on so you can get them wrapped up before the holiday festivities begin. With this kind of advance planning, you might even be able to take a personal or vacation day to deal with things as the big day draws near.

If you’re an employer, you have a stake in all of this too. After all, it’s to your advantage to have employees who are happy and productive during the holiday season rather than frazzled and stressed-out. To ease their burden, consider creative approaches such as these:

  • Offer workers more flexible schedules, including the possibility of working from home.
  • Set reasonable hours in the days surrounding the holidays.
  • Rearrange deadlines or fiscal years so they don’t coincide with the holidays.
  • Offer your employees “Holiday Savings Accounts” (a percentage or set dollar amount set aside from paychecks) to ease holiday financial stress.

Despite everyone’s best efforts, there are still employees who will inevitably fall victim to holiday-related stress. Companies that have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) in place can refer their employees for compassionate, professional help for dealing with family, health, financial and emotional issues — during the holidays or at any time — all at no cost to the employee. WorkLife by Meridian has information on EAPs and how they benefit both employers and employees.

Avoiding stress at home

That vow to plan ahead and start working on the holidays early every year is one that’s always worth making, even if we don’t always fulfill it. Beyond this, here are some more things to keep in mind that can go a long way toward easing stress at home as the holidays approach:

  • Your desire to make the holidays wonderful for your loved ones is sincere and comes from the best of intentions. But it shouldn’t be entirely up to you to make this happen.
  • Don’t hesitate to ask for help from family members and friends. The responsibility for a happy holiday should be shared by all.
  • Don’t over-promise or take on more than you can handle. It’s OK to set boundaries and say “no” to family and friends when you’re at the limit of what you can reasonably do.
  • Looking after your health is a major plus in helping you deal with holiday stress. Eat healthier, exercise and get plenty of sleep. Stay hydrated by drinking lots of water, and don’t overdo the alcohol.
  • Remember that others are stressed, too. Resolve to cut bosses, co-workers, family and friends, store employees, drivers and anyone else you encounter a little slack.

You can get a handle on holiday stress!

In the end, think of what’s most important this holiday season. The smiles and best wishes you share with family, friends, and strangers, too — they count for more than every present, meal or family gathering being “perfect.” The holidays should be fun for everyone — including you.

Best wishes of the season from everyone at WorkLife by Meridian and Meridian HealthCare!

 

Larry Moliterno is CEO of Meridian HealthCare and currently serves as President of the Ohio Alliance of Recovery Providers. Send email to lmoliterno@MeridianCommunityCare.org

Treating Addiction Is Expensive. Not Treating It Is More Expensive.

“Taxpayers shell out $100M for addicts” the headlines stated on the front page of the local daily newspaper. According to the story under the headline, the $100 million was made up of $37.5 million for Medicaid-funded treatment and $71 million in other publicly funded treatment.

Clearly, the cost of treating addiction is expensive. And I’m sure the headline upset a lot of hard-working citizens. But the point the article fails to point out, is the cost to taxpayers of untreated addiction. That cost is much, much higher.

According to studies by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, far more government money is spent on dealing with the consequences of substance abuse than on taking steps to reduce the problem (e.g., education, research, treatment and prevention).

In fact, figures for these expenditures are calculated in billions of dollars rather than millions. How is that possible?

Consider these expenditures related to substance abuse: Criminal justice/public safety — $2 billion. Healthcare-related — $1.3 billion. Education— $1 billion. That comes to an astounding $4.3 billion. That’s before you add in another $1.5 million for additional welfare system expenditures.

Looking at it another way, for every dollar allocated to the overall problem of substance abuse, drug treatment and prevention services receive one cent. The consequences of drug abuse — such as mental health services, criminal justice, healthcare, etc. — receive the other ninety-nine cents.

So which is smarter — treating and trying to prevent addiction? Or dealing with it later?

The increase in addiction problems, especially opioid addiction, is unprecedented. A 2012 report presented by the Ohio Alliance of Recovery Providers and the Kent State University College of Public Health sheds some light on these issues.

In the early years of the 21st century, opioid use in the State of Ohio was confined mostly to urban counties and involved primarily heroin. While heroin use has increased in the intervening ten years, there has been an even more dramatic surge in prescription opioids used for non-medical purposes, as well as a significant increase in overdose deaths attributable to these drugs.

In fact, since 2007, unintentional drug poisoning/overdoses became the leading cause of injury death in Ohio, surpassing motor vehicle crashes for the first time on record. This trend continues today. At the same time, the use of opioids has spread to the majority of Ohio’s counties and is no longer just an urban phenomenon.

What can this increase in opioid use be attributed? There are several factors:

Misperceptions about safety. There is a significant disconnect between the public perception of the safety of “hard” drugs (e.g. heroin) and prescription medications. Prescription drugs are prescribed by a physician, and therefore perceived to be less of a risk that so-called “hard” drugs.

More prescription drugs are being dispensed. There has been an overall upward trend in dispensing of prescription drugs, both in individual prescriptions written and dosages prescribed. Indeed, when measured in terms of milligrams-per-person, there was a 402% increase (from 74 to 369 milligrams) between 1997 and 2007.

The rise of “Pill Mills” and the Internet. The increase has been fueled by the rise of “Pill Mills” and the Internet as sources for opioids. Some physicians see opioids as a source for profit, and dispense them freely with little regard to the health of individuals who request them.

Less funding made available for treatment and prevention. Increases in these areas have been accompanied by a corresponding decrease in funding for alcohol and drug treatment and prevention services. State funding for substance abuse treatment has eroded steadily in the last several years, by roughly one-third.

Remember, headlines don’t always tell the full story. Yes, treating addiction is expensive — but not treating it is even more expensive.

 

Larry Moliterno is CEO of Meridian HealthCare and currently serves as President of the Ohio Alliance of Recovery Providers. Send email to lmoliterno@MeridianCommunityCare.org