Carmen Gastelum, Director, California Schools VEBA Resource Center Communications
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, many people began to feel lonely, isolated, stressed and overwhelmed with many emotions. The pandemic created uncertainty and altered our daily routines; we all had to find our new “normal”. California Schools VEBA (VEBA) saw a dramatic increase in the need for services, particularly around social and emotional well-being, and helped increase access to healthy choices for VEBA Members across Southern California.
VEBA is a non-profit health care trust that delivers high quality, affordable, and accessible health care for education, municipal, and public agency employees.
In 2019, just a year before the COVID pandemic hit, VEBA launched the VEBA Resource Center (VRC) to offer a wide range of programs and services that focus on a holistic and tailored approach to wellbeing. The VRC quickly became a hub to help education employees, including Rebecca Wilcox, begin advocating for their own health and wellbeing.
In 2015, Rebecca Wilcox was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. “When I did speak to my doctor about my diagnosis, the conversation centered on control. We discussed control through medication, like metformin, through diet and exercise, but the goal was always only control.”
After Rebecca’s father passed before the pandemic, food became a coping mechanism for her along with her doctor increasing her medications to get her A1c (a common marker for diabetes) under control. With the COVID-19 shutdowns, Rebecca was able to focus on herself again and took advantage of VEBA’s nutritional programs as a VEBA member. Through VEBA, Rebecca was introduced to the VRC and VIRTA health, which provided her with the change she was looking for.
“VRC has helped me calm much of my anxiety and get on a better eating plan, referring me to and paying for VIRTA health. To date, I have reduced one diabetes medication and have lost about 40 pounds (Since August). I feel my new habits are sustainable because I have developed them out of kindness for myself, not with resentment for where I was at. VRC has helped me with all that.”
The VRC looks at each Member as a unique individual, so each plan varies to help each member overcome obstacles and live the best version of themselves. When asked what makes the VRC different from other health care facilities, Rebecca mentioned, “I do not feel judged; I feel supported. It is exponentially easier to ask for and accept help when it is offered with understanding and compassion. I have extreme anxiety going to the doctor because I feel judged, particularly regarding weight. VRC has been helping me to understanding what may have led me to where I am at and is giving me tools to help myself do the work to make better decisions for now and in the future.”
For more information about California Schools VEBA and the VEBA Resource Center, visit the website at https://vebaresourcecenter.com/