This article first appeared in the April 2017 issue of Employee Benefit Adviser

By Brian Kalish

As brokerages continue to look for ways to stand out from the competition, two agencies are giving back to their communities and helping those areas become healthier in the process.

Andrew McNeil, principal of Arrow Benefits Group in Petaluma, Calif., created the Arrow Community Wellness Initiative, collaborating with Whole Foods, integrated healthcare system St. Joseph Health and other local health industry leaders to provide a series of ongoing free wellness classes to the community.

The initiative each month offers CPR and automated defibrillator (AED) training and certification with first -aid, instructed by the Petaluma Health Care District, free to the community.

Of the 220,000 victims of sudden cardiac arrest per year in the United States, about 10,000 occur at work, according to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Waiting for the arrival of emergency medical system personnel results in only 5%-7% survival, according to OSHA. But, studies with immediate defibrillation have shown up to 60% survival one year after sudden cardiac arrest.

Bloomberg/file photo


Realizing those statistics, McNeil launched the program “to not only raise awareness but also train people on the front line so they know what to do when an emergency happens,” he explains.

Community giving for brokerage Benefit Insurance Marketing manifested in another way, by worked with a client of theirs, TJ Samson Regional hospital in Glasgow, Ky., to develop an onsite clinic working with a third-party vendor for health coaching.

The clinic is now open to other employers in that region, including non-clients, explains Benefit Insurance Marketing SVP Benji Marrs, who was raised in Glasgow. His firm receives no income from the third-party running the clinic or from non-clients who will use it.

Why they do it
McNeil, a 2017 EBA Rising Star in Advising, began the program because he believes he can “build [a] stronger community by building stronger employers,” he says. “Stronger employers translate into a stronger local economy and happier, more productive citizens.”

Another part of the program is focusing on placing AEDs into the community, “which will be a bigger deal for us,” he says, “because it helps get that shock at the point of emergency as opposed to waiting for an ambulance.”

“It is all about community and the place that we work, we live and we spend most of our time,” he adds.

McNeil’s work with the program has helped businesses “understand their potential to positively impact not only employee health, but community health,” says Erin Hawkins, community outreach program manager for the Petaluma Health Care District and a client of McNeil.

For Marrs, it is about helping rural Glasgow, population 14,000. Unlike a traditional primary care physician visit, patients at the TJ Samson clinic are seen in 20-40 minute time blocks. “It is about building a relationship,” Marrs says. “In today’s for profit world, it is a near impossibility to establish … [a relationship] with your practitioner, whose practice has to see 150-200 patients a day” to break even financially.

Happy clients, engaged employees
Both brokers say the rewards have been tenfold and worth the time and money invested. Although for them, it is not about a monetary ROI but instead about keeping clients happy, employees engaged and the community healthier.

“The remuneration, if any, will be minuscule, compared to seeing this succeed,” Marrs says.

For TJ Regional Health, the hospital’s parent organization, the partnership shows a “lifetime commitment,” LaDonna Rogers, TJ Regional Health chief of human resources, says. “We are very pleased and fortunate to have someone that truly cares about our organization,” she adds of Marrs.

As the largest employer in Glasgow, people look to TJ Regional Health for what works, Rogers adds. “We are about getting people well — but also about keeping them healthy,” she says. “The best way to do that is with your own employees.”

Besides happy clients, it also pays dividends for the brokerages’ staff. Marrs explain without question more than one life has been saved because of the clinic. Those success stories are discussed at team meetings with the entire brokerage and the response has been “emotionally overwhelming and gratifying,” he says.

“It helps the team become more engaged [and] more of our team members want to be part of the [clinic] planning,” he adds. “When you get to be a part of something like this, it is extremely rewarding. … Being part of making a difference in people’s lives.”

In California, Mary Hardisty, marketing communications manager at Arrow Benefits, took advantage of the CPR training that McNeil offered.

She also signed up her teenage daughters and husband. “These classes … help prepare a person to be more confident in a situation when they find someone having a problem,” she says. “If [my family or I] see someone suffering, I want … to know how [to] help.”

The program “really benefits the community,” she adds, as before McNeil offered the classes, the nearest ones were an hour away in Sacramento.