New Vail Health program aims to create a stronger workforce, literally

Community SafeHealth, which launched in January, gives local workers access to costly health care services

Alexis Dozal performs a plank exercise in the Edwards Field House with other participants in a Community SafeHealth-like program. Chris Knerl with Howard Head Sports Medicine said human performance analysts have been working with local kids two days per week and the program has been a success.

With 18 percent of Eagle County residents uninsured, more than triple the state average of 6.5 percent, filling the gap in health care services for the uninsured is essential.

Those are the words of Vail Health professionals who are rolling out a new program called Community SafeHealth, which will “guide and encourage uninsured and underinsured Eagle County residents to develop healthier habits,” said Sally Welsh with Vail Health.

Community SafeHealth will use Vail Health system resources from Howard Head Sports Medicine, Colorado Mountain Medical, Eagle Valley Behavioral Health, and community partners MIRA (Mobile Intercultural Resource Alliance), Neighborhood Navigators, My Future Pathways, and others.

Vail local Ellie Rubenstein (who, along with her siblings, contributed $1 million to launch the Community SafeHealth program at Howard Head Sports Medicine) said she wants to show, through the program, that prevention works, and can provide a solution communities aren’t seeing from government or health care industry programs.

“I stand on a bottom’s up, community driven approach,” she said. “I think community health is far more important than adding regulation.”

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Ellie Rubenstein, CEO of Vail-based investment firm Manna Tree Partners, says her family has benefited from Vail Health’s care for 20 years, and is proud to partner with Vail Health in an effort to create a new community health program.
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In starting Community SafeHealth, “if it would have been government, or for-profit, I don’t think that the collaboration element would have been there,” Rubenstein said.

The pilot program started in January 2021 and provides local individuals and families with culturally-sensitive programming, including mobile and virtual options to enhance access to preventative health care; evaluation of physical, nutritional, and psychological measures to track participant and program success and provide population health metrics; and fitness sessions, nutritional classes, behavioral health offerings, health screenings, supplemented medical services and ongoing virtual support networks.

Stronger workforce

Rubenstein said her family’s own health challenges inspired her to get involved with Community SafeHealth.

“Vail Health has been able to solve most of the physical issues, and that’s why I believe in the team and the organization,” she said. “I had a brain injury, they had to teach me how to relearn to walk and talk.”

The lesson she learned through the experience was simple: “Without my health, I can’t work,” she said. “That is the No. 1 issue to address here — the most important thing anybody has in life is their health, and we if can’t have people healthy, they can’t work, and then we start to have the community downfall.”

Vail Resorts uses a similar program, which the company calls SafeFit. Doug Schofield, Senior Manager of Health and Safety at Vail Mountain, said the SafeFit program has been a successful benefit for Vail Mountain workers.

“It has helped our employees work through a very physical and athletic work environment,” Schofield said.

Vail Resorts’ SafeFit program is used for management of musculoskeletal injuries, providing “quick, no-cost, access to health care providers in order to improve employee health, reduce health care costs, and reduce lost work time,” said John Plack with Vail and Beaver Creek mountains.

SafeFit sessions are 20 minute appointments with a Howard Head Therapist to discuss and provide treatment for injuries.

“The purpose of the program is to provide evaluation, treatment and advice for musculoskeletal conditions in order to keep our employees strong, healthy and working,” Plack said.

‘Prevent issues from compounding’

The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically increased the number of individuals who no longer have access to health care.

Students exercise at the Edwards field house as part of a Vail Health community health program. A similar program, designed to help people who don’t have access to wellness services, hopes to attract other members of their families.
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This resulted in a much larger concern for the community than previously reported, making Community SafeHealth even more important, say officials with Vail Health.

Community SafeHealth proponents hope to provide wellness training, coaching, and support for uninsured and underinsured individuals in Eagle County; reduce household expenditures on preventable health care needs; and document an overall health improvement in the community.

“By addressing underlying health issues, individuals and families can prevent complications caused by COVID-19,” said Chris Lindley, the executive director of Eagle Valley Behavioral Health. “Community SafeHealth will play an important role in encouraging the most vulnerable people in our community to be healthier and improve their overall wellness and prevent issues from compounding.”

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