Cal Schools VEBA opens resource center in San Diego

After years of coping with rising health care costs, health care benefit provider California Schools Voluntary Employees Benefit Association (Cal Schools VEBA) asked itself some hard questions about how they could keep costs in check while continuing to provide quality care for members. Founded by school superintendents, teachers, and school employees, administration committed itself to actually impacting the cost curve without merely shifting costs onto members.

Like many plans, administrators dug into internal data and quality rankings from the Office of the Patient Advocate, but found that despite best efforts, the sickest patients were still not getting any better with the top 20 percent of utilizers accounting for 80 percent of the costs. To crack the problem, Cal Schools VEBA looked beyond symptoms to understand try to get to the root causes of the chronic disease and poor health and landed on the social determinants of health.


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In January, Cal Schools VEBA celebrated the opening its new resource center in the Mission Valley area of San Diego designed to hit at the social determinants by proactively targeting members’ overall well-being. The VEBA Resource Center (VRC) brings together mental health support, wellness education, movement, stress reduction, nutrition, and cooking resources in a convenient, one-stop shop that is accessible to close to half of the organization’s almost 150,000 members statewide.

The VRC’s services are centered around nurse navigators who begin by holistically assessing members and their health needs. The facility has extensive HIPPA compliant telemedicine facilities to quickly connect members that come seeking mental or behavioral health help to doctors or therapists to avoid the drop out common when patients face long wait times to get into care. Members can also access individual and group counseling on site as well as engage in acupuncture, meditation, and other relaxation classes all while children are cared for in the staffed on-site child facility.

In addition to mental health services, VRC also offers physical health and wellness programs anchored in its on-site Movement Center. Health coaches are available to help develop personalized programs, SECA body scans to set base lines for weightless and health initiatives, large group exercise classes, small group exercise re-boots, and yoga classes. Explained Laura Josh, spokeswoman for the VRC,

“Across the board it is really about personalizing the experience to meet the members’ needs. Members can build a plan with the nurse navigator to address their unique desires.”

The center also features a state of the art teaching kitchen when professional chef Leslie Myers hosts classes on healthy and quick cooking, nutrition, and overcoming practical barriers to health cooking like knife skills classes.

Though some center programs for around a year in pilot form, the VRC does not yet have measurable quantitative data on its impact on Cal Schools VEBA’s overall health costs. Anecdotally, Josh says members love it and the feedback has been very positive.  The organization will move forward with data collection and evaluation and is talking about plans for new centers in other parts of the state in the future.