Portico Benefit Services used data to address emotional well-being for their population of rostered clergy and other church staffers. In this case study, we’ll explore:
Portico Benefit Services provides retirement, health, and other related benefits and consultative services to employees of faith-based organizations. Portico partners with over 6,000 employers all around the country, providing benefits to more than 46,000 individuals, including rostered ministers, churchworkers, social-ministry employees, and their families.
How the benefits ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) leveraged quantitative and qualitative member data to address its members’ well-being, including the unique emotional stresses of rostered ministers.
The work of ELCA rostered ministers and other churchworkers is emotionally rewarding and challenging. They support individuals in their congregations and communities by listening and offering emotional support while also helping their congregations navigate changing financial realities, generational needs, and the continually changing ELCA landscape. They may do this in relative isolation, coping with geographic separation from colleagues. They balance the need to maintain professional boundaries while also being deeply connected in the communities they serve.
These challenges are not unique to the ELCA community. A study published by the Journal of Primary Prevention in 2013, which compared the mental health of United Methodist Clergy in North Carolina to a representative sample of Americans, concluded clergy taking the survey had a rate of depression of 8.7% — significantly higher than the national sample of 5.5%. 
While studying high-cost medical conditions to identify opportunities to address health issues for members, Portico’s benefit professionals flagged three important health benefit indicators:
1. Higher-than-average Employee Assistance Program utilization 
2. High levels of self-reported anxiety and depression 
3. Using the Artemis Platform, by Artemis Health, to analyze health claim data , behavioral health conditions were identified in Portico’s top-five diagnoses by cost
With the cost of behavioral health conditions increasing year over year, Portico’s benefit professionals took a deeper dive, revealing increases of 6.7% for mood disorders, 6.3% for anxiety disorders, 8.9% for adjustment disorders, and 5.6% for other mental health diagnoses from 2017 to 2018.
Clearly, additional support was needed to address the members’ entire continuum of mental health care needs—from check-ins and support for at-risk members, to more direct interventions for those with chronic conditions. Portico’s benefit professionals determined a proactive approach to help members, including rostered ministers and other churchworkers, get necessary care.
Portico’s benefit professionals searched for wellness programs designed to provide confidential, early intervention for those at-risk for behavioral health conditions and support members already receiving treatment. They identified two innovative wellness solutions:
Portico chose to implement both solutions in 2020 for those with chronic conditions as well as those needing solutions to everyday stress.
To personalize the Being academy for its membership, Portico partnered with The Big Know to add faith-based elements to most of its courses and to add two new custom courses to its curriculum:
Initial engagement for both solutions is impressive. Members are engaging for 15-minutes longer on average than The Big Know’s book of business. There has been high engagement in the Learn to Live program.
Portico will continue to monitor behavioral health claims data through the Artemis Health tool to determine if the addition of these programs influences behavioral health services utilization and claims costs.
Portico will continue to promote Being and Learn to Live to create awareness and reach more members while leveraging qualitative and quantitative measures to improve upon holistic well-being.
 The Journal of Primary Prevention Using Effort-Reward Imbalance Theory to Understand High Rates of Depression and Anxiety Among Clergy. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10935-013-0321-4
 Employee Assistance Program by Beacon Health reported Portico’s EAP utilization reached over 6.7% in 2018. Trends suggest average utilization ranges between 4.5 and 6.5% (Chestnut Global Partners, Trends Report 2017. http://chestnutglobalpartners.org/Portals/cgp/Publications/Trends-Report-April2017.pdf)
 Portico’s Vendor Partner’s Health Assessment Responses and self-reported data 2016-2018.
 The Artemis Platform aggregates claim utilization data and does not release personal health information in accordance with HIPAA regulations.