VAIL, CO (July 21, 2020) – Vail Health has created a new population health executive leadership position that will focus on preventative measures to keep people both physically and mentally healthy in the Eagle River Valley. The initiative will take a holistic approach, considering the physical, medical, behavioral and social determinants of health care within the community. To lead this endeavor, Chris Lindley has been named Chief Population Health Officer (CPHO) for Vail Health. Lindley will also retain his current role as Executive Director of Eagle Valley Behavioral Health (EVBH), an outreach of Vail Health.
“Our goal of focusing on population health is an important shift from traditional sick care to total health care for our community,” said Will Cook, President and CEO of Vail Health. “We’ll be working to keep people healthy, getting upstream and ahead of chronic health conditions, including mental health, before they become more serious and more costly.”
Over the past two years, Vail Health senior management and its volunteer board of directors set into motion strategies to address two critical crises in our valley, starting with behavioral health, but also focusing on ways to enhance access to more affordable care. Vail Health’s new partnership with Colorado Mountain Medical (CMM), the valley’s top primary care and specialist provider, along with the creation of EVBH has allowed for a more integrated health care system in the community. While nobody anticipated COVID-19, the integration has been essential to managing the virus across the local population.
“If we can improve the overall health of people’s body and mind, then we can improve their quality of life while reducing the higher cost of more expensive care,” said Cook. “This community-first focus has never been more important than now.”
As CPHO, Lindley will help Vail Health explore and navigate a new health care delivery model for this unique valley. In his new role, Lindley will work closely with Vail Health and CMM leadership, physician partners, and key stakeholders within the community and will lead the development and implementation of Vail Health’s overall population health management strategy—which began with behavioral health.
“I am proud and humbled by the incredible work that the EVBH team has been able to accomplish in its first year,” said Lindley. “More than anything, it is a testament to what can be accomplished when people are united by a single focus, and weaving population health into that focus is a natural progression and one that our community needs.”
Through a $60 million commitment in 2019, Vail Health established EVBH to serve as the backbone organization to lead the community collaboration in transforming the behavioral health system within the Eagle River Valley. Since its inception, EVBH has already implemented programs that were anticipated to take many years to come to fruition. In December, Vail Health Foundation launched It Takes A Valley: Transforming Behavioral Health, a $100 million campaign for EVBH and its community partners, which brings Vail Health’s total investment in behavioral health to $160 million over 10 years.
These include an increase of 25 behavioral health providers within the community and integrating behavioral health into primary care through the partnership with CMM. The website EagleValleyBH.org serves as a one-stop resource for community members to research and connect to a behavioral health provider, find nonprofit partners, and – most importantly – seek the immediate help they need.
Additionally, EVBH has creatively and successfully implemented Mountain Strong, an improved local Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for Vail Health employees that is expanding to other community organizations. Since its inception, the Mountain Strong EAP has experienced a utilization rate of 12 percent, assisting 166 Vail Health employees since December 2019, compared with a utilization rate of two percent with the organization’s previous EAP.
In response to COVID-19, EVBH fast-tracked the Community Stream platform, which allows community members to stay connected, informed, healthy and engaged through various events, both live and recorded. A podcast was also created, which focuses on behavioral health issues within the community and features local community members as guests.
To ensure all local community members have access to behavioral health resources, EVBH established Olivia’s Fund, which provides financial assistance to anyone who lives or works in Eagle County to help pay for mental health and/or substance use services for up to six sessions per person per year. Olivia’s Fund has assisted 83 people since its creation in April 2020, providing approximately $60,000 in free behavioral health services for those with a financial need for seeking services.
“Chris is a special individual with an incredible heart and work ethic for this community. He and his team have accomplished an impressive amount of meaningful projects during the group’s first year of operation,” said Cook. “His new position will allow us to take it a step further and explore a more comprehensive approach to health care and wellness within our community.”
With an extensive epidemiology and public health background, Lindley has also served as the Incident Commander for Vail Health’s COVID-19 response.
“In the battle against COVID-19, we have found that by addressing underlying health issues, people can prevent complications caused by COVID-19,” said Lindley. “Four primary health issues that cause complications are: obesity, hypertension, diabetes and smoking. This is just one example of how encouraging our community to be healthier can help improve their overall wellness and prevent issues from compounding.”