When "toughing it out" doesn’t cut it: Improving pool member mental health and wellness through incentives.


In response to Montana's rising rates of depression and suicide, the Montana Municipal Interlocal Authority (MMIA) made a mental health video a key component of its plan to improve overall wellness within its benefits membership.

To get its message in front of the pool’s 2,900 covered employees in 85 communities, MMIA’s employee benefits program turned to a combination of incentives, including the educational video. Watching it, and completing a brief quiz thereafter, earns a participant $50.

Produced in house with supporting footage from the Montana chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the video addresses Montanans’ general reluctance to seek help for mental health issues and provides resources for medical plan participants.

Amanda Clark, MMIA’s employee benefits program manager, says the pool chose to produce a video on mental health for several reasons. First, pool data indicated that stress and depression were prevalent among plan participants. Additionally, Montana has been in the news due to its high per-capita rates of suicide, particularly among men. And, she said, “Montanans think we can tough it out,” making it harder to get people to access resources. The video focuses on making talk about mental health more comfortable, and creates a connection between self-care and improved mental and physical well-being.

The video is part of a broader incentive strategy. In addition to incentives for watching the video and completing the quiz, plan participants can earn additional $50 payouts by getting a biometric health screening, scheduling a follow-up call with a health coach to discuss the screening results, and encouraging colleagues to participate (the “peer pressure incentive”). Clark said the pool has an enviable participation rate of approximately 70 percent so far, with aspirations to push that rate even higher in the coming year.

Health coaches will be directing certain participants to disease management services, and a nurse practitioner is joining the team for more involved cases. The pool has also started pre-hypertension and pre-diabetes risk management programs. Further details on the MMIA wellness program and its incentives are available on the MMIA Wellness Program site.

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