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Access Carroll moves into new home

As cars crossed the Distillery building's parking lot Wednesday, so did Access Carroll staff and volunteers, wheeling medical equipment and carrying boxes filled with syringes, Band-aids, medicine, patients' files and more.

Trisha Ruther shrieked with excitement as she rode the elevator after bringing supplies from the nonprofit's location on Locust Lane in Westminster to the new facility on the Distillery building's second floor.

Wednesday was moving day.

And a much-needed one at that, the Access Carroll care coordinator said, as the organization has felt growing pains for several years.

Access Carroll, which has provided free health care to the uninsured, under-insured and low-income residents since January 2005, used to serve about 200 total patients a year. In 2011, it saw 480 new patients alone, according to executive director Tammy Black.

On Friday, Access Carroll began seeing several patients. But on Monday, it'll open its new doors to all - and those doors are the ones that employees were ecstatic to enter on Wednesday.

"Oh my god," Ruther said as she entered the 13,000-square-foot space. "Oh my god. It smells - it's got the new office smell. It's so awesome."

The walls are a freshly painted ivory, green and blue. The floors are an unscathed medium brown wood.

The pharmacy isn't housed in a closet anymore. It has its own two rooms with cabinets and a prescription pick-up window.

The days of cramming four people into a single office and fighting for one of the three computers is over. As are the days of talking with patients in the lunchroom in an attempt to find the most semi-private space available.

"I have an office and a phone and a door that I can close," Ruther said, almost giddy at this luxury.

It's a welcome change from Access Carroll's cramped 2,190-square-foot quarters on Locust Lane. It's one that took nearly three years and $1.3 million through grants and private donations to fully complete.

It'll give the employees breathing room and a designated place to work rather than relying on the wall or a copier's hard surface to write. But it will also provide more space to see patients and allow the organization to grow, Black said.

Instead of four examination rooms, there are seven. There's a dental wing with four rooms, which is a new addition to Access Carroll's services. The dental staff will be hired and the supplies will be ordered for that section after the first of the year, according to Black.

"What's going to happen then is hopefully the operations and the growth will work hand-in-hand," Black said. "As we develop and improve our operations, the growth will also come along."

And there's more to come. The fully renovated space is only at 8,300-square-feet so far, leaving a little less than 5,000 more to play with.

That area will be primarily designated for behavioral health and addictions care offices, which Black said the nonprofit will begin fundraising for in about two months.

For now, it's time for Access Carroll to get settled into its new home.

On Wednesday, the old office was a flurry of motion as volunteers and staff ducked into rooms to pave the way for handcarts lugging boxes to come through the small hallway.

At the Distillery building, decisions were being made as the new home was in the throes of arrangement.

Mary Pauley was unpacking the new pharmacy for a nonprofit that's helped out her and her husband, who both currently don't have health insurance.

"We are so blessed to come here," she said. "They've been so good to us - we wanted to give something back."

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