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Caring for Caregivers: How VCA Offers Zero-Barriers Mental Health Care with Lyra

Founded in 1986, Veterinary Centers of America, now known as VCA Animal Hospitals, was the first company of its kind to create a nationwide network of veterinary hospitals under a single entity. Prioritizing world-class care at a local level, VCA now operates more than 1,000 animal hospitals across the U.S.

At the heart of VCA is a culture of care and compassion—care for its furry patients and its 30,000 employees (referred to as associates). VCA prides itself on “feeling just like home,” with each hospital operating as a family; this family feel is a clear driving force behind VCA’s benefits philosophy.

As leaders in the veterinary space, VCA also wanted to lead in providing comprehensive benefits for its associates that encompass both  their physical and mental health needs.  “I’ve been in this profession for 25 years, and it’s always been known that mental health is something that people in this industry have challenges with,” said VCA Director of Associate Well-Being, Johanna Baldwin.

Similar to other caregiving professions, VCA associates experience compassion fatigue, burnout, anxiety, and depression due to the stressors they face every day—dealing with patients that are in distress and can’t speak for themselves, and interacting with grieving clients whose companions are ill or dying.

In a survey of 11,000 vets across the country, researchers found that 9 percent of participants were struggling with high levels of psychological distress; 31 percent had experienced a depressive episode at some stage in their careers; and 17 percent reported suicidal ideation.

But when it came to helping associates address their mental health needs, VCA lacked confidence in its previous employee assistance program (EAP) because it offered only minimal basic mental health support that was often difficult to access. VCA’s previous EAP put the burden of finding a provider on an already stressed workforce, providing only a few sessions of counseling that may not help employees fully recover.

“Our associates told us that it was difficult to find a provider in their area that could actually help them. If they did find someone, it might take a couple of months to see them, if at all,” said Baldwin, The system created barriers for our people to get the care they needed. That was really challenging because once you make the choice to reach out and ask for help, you need to be able to access that help quickly.This lack of accessible and effective mental health care was an issue VCA needed to confront. “Frankly, I used to lose a lot of sleep because I worried about our employees and what they would do if they needed help,” Maria Druse, vice president of human resources, recalled.

Mental health care grounded in science

“When we were considering how to invest in mental health care as a scientific and medical organization, it was important for us to look at evidence-based results,” said Baldwin. Lyra’s therapists and coaches solely provide evidence-based treatments (EBTs), methods that have been rigorously tested in randomized controlled trials and proven effective at reducing symptoms and improving overall functioning.

Through comprehensive quarterly reports that include data such as the number of members who seek care, anonymized clinical outcomes, and client satisfaction rates, Lyra provides a clear picture of the care it’s delivering to VCA associates. Meaningful, measurable symptom changes are tracked and analyzed through validated clinical measures, including the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9) for depression and the Generalized Anxiety Disorder-7 (GAD-7) for anxiety to validate patient outcomes and the effectiveness of care with Lyra.


By the numbers:

  • 97% of VCA members searching for care with Lyra are instantly matched with an available provider
  • 6 days is the median wait time for a first appointment with a Lyra provider
  • 76% of VCA members in care with Lyra see improvement or recover from their mental health conditions

With Lyra, VCA has seen powerful improvement in care access and outcomes, and now feels  confident that they are well-equipped to support employees’ mental health. Baldwin says, ]

“Our associates have told us that in offering Lyra, it’s making a difference to them. It’s allowing them to feel better about themselves, about the work that they do. Our goal is that this will allow them to thrive in this profession for the long term.”

Learn more about the amazing ways VCA takes care of its people here.


If you want help connecting with a coach or therapist, Lyra can assist you. You can get started today if Lyra is offered by your employer. Sign up now.

For employers who want to learn more about the value and impact of a mental health benefit, download our white paper or get in touch.

And check in frequently here or follow us on FacebookLinkedIn, and Twitter for more insights into supporting employees’ mental health.

By The Lyra Team
31 of March 2022 - 3 min read
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