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Vail Health CEO talks future projects and growing pains

Will Cook, in annual address, says valley’s health care network is moving from ‘sick care’ to ‘population health’

Vail Health’s recently approved Edwards campus will provide behavioral health and community services.
Vail Health/courtesy photo.

Vail Health is growing fast, and CEO Will Cook acknowledges that’s brought some growing pains.

Cook talked about those growing pains, as well as current and future projects during Tuesday’s annual State of Vail Health presentation. The Zoom presentation included Cook covering a lot of ground, as well as replying to several viewer questions.

The first of those questions came from a viewer who talked about having trouble making an appointment for a behavioral health visit at Colorado Mountain Medical.



Cook acknowledged that Colorado Mountain Medical had “failed” on that front, citing rapid growth overwhelming phone and other technical systems. Cook also noted that Vail Health, like virtually every other organization, has had trouble filling a number of positions.

That growth has come in just a few years. In 2017, the organization had 860 employees. About 1,500 people now work for Vail Health.



In that time, Vail Health has completed an expansion of the hospital in Vail and added more than 50 behavioral health specialists.

Chris Lindley, who is Vail Health’s chief population health officer, said even with the additional behavioral health staff, more people are still needed.

Vail Health has also opened a facility in Dillon, and is now building a surgery center in Basalt. Vail Health this year will start construction of a new campus in Edwards.

Inpatient behavioral care

The central part of the Edwards campus will be dedicated to behavioral health, with 14 beds each for inpatient adult and adolescent behavioral health care provided by Colorado Mountain Medical, a Vail Health subsidiary.

The facility will also include outpatient behavioral health services, and will also provide space for The Community Market and My Future Pathways, a local nonprofit that provides academic help, life coaching and other services to local youth.

The Edwards facility is an example of Vail Health moving from “sick care” to “population health.”

Cook said population health includes health care and behavioral health services, as well as making health care more affordable and accessible.

The idea, Cook said, is to find ways to make people healthier overall, so they don’t need as much acute care.

Dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic is an example of how population health can work, Cook said. The best method to fight the virus is for people to have better baseline health, from personal fitness to COVID-19 testing and vaccinations.

More affordable care

Part of that effort includes making Vail Health’s services more affordable.

Cook noted that Vail Health has dropped the prices on some of its imaging services and is adding outpatient services so patients don’t require a hospital admission. But, Cook added, Vail Health has also been working with government officials and local groups to make insurance more affordable.

Cook said Vail Health has worked with Anthem Insurance to reduce premiums when Kaiser Permanente left the market. Vail Health has also worked to forge partnerships with insurance and reinsurance plans.

Vail Health has also increased its financial assistance to those earning up to 500% of the federal poverty level, and has enrolled about 200 new Medicaid patients in the last six months.

Vail Health is also partnering with local employers and the Vail Valley Partnership on ideas to provide more affordable insurance options.

Asked about housing for staff, Vail Health Senior Vice President and Chief Real Estate Development Officer Craig Cohn said Vail Health is working on creating housing near the new Edwards campus. Cohn said those efforts include working both purchase options and master leasing, adding that those efforts will include Summit County, as Vail Health expands its presence there.

Future plans also include adding staff to help care for the valley’s aging residents, and working to expand services for veterans who live in the area.

After a rapid-fire hour, Cook urged those with questions to reach out.

“Be healthy, and get vaccinated,” he said before signing off.

Four facts

Vail Health has increased its financial assistance to those earning up to 500% of the federal poverty level.

Val Health has launched “Victim First Care,” providing nursing and forensic examination care to sexual assault victims.

Vail Health has raised more than $46 million of a $100 million fundraising effort.

Work will begin this year on the Edwards Community Health Campus.


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