Vail Health names Chris Lindley to ‘population health’ position

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.

Chris Lindley has been named Chief Population Health Officer for Vail Health. Lindley will also retain his current role as Executive Director of Eagle Valley Behavioral Health, 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, in a news release. “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.”

During the past two years, Vail Health senior management and its volunteer board of directors set into motion strategies to address two critical crises in the Eagle River 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, the valley’s largest primary care and specialist provider, along with the creation of Eagle Valley Behavioral Health, 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. 

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“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,” Cook said. “This community-first focus has never been more important than now.”

As population health director, Lindley will help Vail Health explore and navigate a new health care delivery model for the valley. In his new role, Lindley will work closely with Vail Health and Colorado Mountain Medical 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 (Eagle Valley Behavioral Health) team has been able to accomplish in its first year,” Lindley said. “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 Eagle Valley Behavioral Health to serve as the backbone organization to lead the community collaboration in transforming the behavioral health system within the Vail Valley. Since its inception, Eagle Valley Behavioral Health 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. 

In response to COVID-19, Eagle Valley Behavioral Health 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, Eagle Valley Behavioral Health 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,” Cook said. “He and his team have accomplished an impressive amount of meaningful projects during the group’s first year of operation. 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.”

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