In a bid to retain pastors, Mars Hill Church leaders implemented a wellness program in the summer of 2013. I first became aware of the program when John Catanzaro’s — Mark Driscoll’s naturopath physician — license to practice as a naturopath was suspended in January 2014. Then recently, I obtained more information about the program and the associated costs. The program is of interest because of the costs involved and the fact that the program involves Catanzaro whose license was suspended due to the use of cancer vaccines he was not authorized to administer. Catanzaro’s hearing is slated for November.
In response to negative publicity surrounding his loss of license, Catanzaro put out a press kit which referenced his work with Mars Hill Church. He claimed to be a special advisor to Mark Driscoll and to be working with the church to create wellness programs. Even though Catanzaro was at one time (perhaps still is) Driscoll’s naturopathic physician, Catanzaro’s articles were all removed from The Resurgence website when his license was suspended.
A source told me that the lead pastors and executive elders received monthly visits to Catanzaro’s clinic and were eligible to get IV vitamin treatments, and various supplements. The cost was around $100k for the first six months of the program according to one former pastor. Another former pastor told me that the cost was nearer to $7k/year per pastor ($126k for all pastors). Yet another said the visits were often marked by high pressure tactics to buy even more supplements and get more treatments.
I asked Mars Hill Church spokesman Justin Dean about the program. Below is his response:
Since the summer of 2013 we have provided a Wellness Program as part of the competitive benefits package we offer our Lead Pastors and Executive Elders for treatments not typically covered by our healthcare plan. We take the wellness of our families seriously and have been happy to provide this added benefit for these pastors. These included optional IV vitamin treatments, check up and back adjustments, and nutritional supplements. This was developed with Dr. Catanzaro’s office but was expanded to include other doctors. The costs associated with the program were not over $100k for the first 6 months. Due to our current financial situation all program costs are in review.
I also asked, “Just one follow up; are those “others doctors” in Dr. Catanzaro’s office?” to which he replied, “They are able to see other doctors at his [Catanzaro’s] office in addition to doctors at an entirely different facility. ”
People differ in their beliefs about the benefits of naturopathic treatments. Vitamin C treatments are controversial but I doubt they hurt much (or do much good). The amount of the program sounds high for what is offered which seems relevant given the current financial situation at Mars Hill.
Dean said all program costs are “in review” — as they should be. This wellness program was being funded at about the same level and about the same time as the “highly visible” mission projects in Ethiopia and India designed to draw money into the Global Fund. Now we know that most of the money donated to the Global Fund went to the general fund to pay for budget items like the wellness program.
UPDATE: There is disagreement over the cost of the program. Justin Dean wrote to me this afternoon and asked me to include an additional aspect to our email conversation about the wellness program. When we first talked, I had informed Dean that sources told me the wellness program cost $100k during the first six months of operation. Dean’s initial response to that point was stated above: “The costs associated with the program were not over $100k for the first 6 months.” However, later in the email conversation, Dean wrote again about the costs of the wellness program and said, “I checked into the figures on this and you have overstated the cost of this program by 85%.” I initially misunderstood this statement and asked about the actual figures which he did not provide. Then today, Dean asked me to include his statement about the costs of the program being overstated by 85% so that readers would not think that the $100/six months figure came from him. While Dean declined to give the actual dollar amount, he restated that “You asked if the cost was $100k in the first 6 months and I replied that number is overstated by 85%.” If I understand him correctly, the cost was closer to $54k for the first six months. Dean declined to confirm my estimate.
In response, my sources stood by the $100k/first six months figure, although added that the information came in a manner that cannot now be verified. One source also wanted to make it clear that there was no choice of provider until John Catanzaro’s license was suspended. My sources informed me that Catanzaro was the only approved naturopath until Catanzaro’s license was suspended.
All concerned acknowledge that the program existed with naturopath John Catanzaro as the developer. While the exact costs cannot be verified, estimates range from around $100k to $200k on an annualized basis.