One of the key architects of Access Carroll, Dr. Robert Wack stepped down as chairman of the nonprofit's board June 30, after shepherding the health clinic for low-income and uninsured Carroll residents from cradle to its present maturity.
"He took hold of the dream and mission to start a stellar community health center, Access Carroll, back in 2004," said Tammy Black, executive director of Access Carroll. "Access Carroll will be turning 10 years old next January, and has grown far beyond anyone's initial expectations."
The origins of Access Carroll lie in Wack's appointment to the board of the Partnership for a Healthier Carroll County in 2002.
"One of the things the partnership had been working on was, 'How do we get more health care for the low income and uninsured in Carroll County?'" Wack said. "There had been an existing low-income clinic, the community clinic, over at the health department that had been doing some of that, but they couldn't do any fundraising because they were a state agency."
It was decided between the hospital, Partnership board and the health department that the community clinic should be peeled off from the health department to become an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization — Access Carroll — that could apply for grants or otherwise fundraise to expand its operations, beginning what Wack said has been a uniquely close relationship between the four organizations.
"Since the beginning, Access Carroll has been a very close partnership between the health department, Carroll Hospital Center and the Partnership," he said. "The reason Access Carroll is so unique is because of this very close cooperation …. Other communities just don't have that."
Wack served on the original steering committee for Access Carroll and helped coordinate the move to the organization's first location at 2 Locust Lane in Westminster and provided Black with strategic advice during the move in November 2012 to Access Carroll's present location at 10 Distillery Drive.
Wack said that, initially, the Access Carroll board did not have term limits for officers, and that once they settled on a limit of two, three-year terms, they bent the rules a bit to keep him on as chairman.
"The first time my board limit came up, people said, 'But you can't leave. We have too many things going on,'" Wack said. "Finally it just got to the point where it was like, 'Look guys, this is ridiculous.'"
Although he has stepped down as chairman of the board at last, Wack said he will still be involved with Access Carroll going forward, volunteering to assist with Access Carroll events and providing advice as a member of the organization's informal advisory board.
"We can't rest on our laurels," Wack said. "We are looking at becoming a FQHC, Federally Qualified Health Clinic, which would allow us to receive federal funding and bill for Medicaid and regular insurance. It would give the organization some long-term financial stability."
Access Carroll currently relies on grants for roughly 80 percent of its funding and Wack said that the availability of such funding is very cyclical, as the financial crisis of 2008 demonstrated, when many foundations reduced their support as their own investments suffered.
Stability of finances will be doubly important to Access Carroll because, according to Wack, the regulatory framework surrounding health care will be anything but stable as the requirements of the Affordable Care Act and other changes reshape the landscape for health-care providers.
"It's like a game of Frogger, having to jump from one lane to the next as these cars are whizzing by," he said. "The whole American health-care system is undergoing radical transformation."
Reach staff writer Jon Kelvey at 410-857-3317 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.