Partnership to expand health access

Washington Adventist, Mary’s Center target East County in planning a new hospital for the low-income and uninsured

Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2006

Washington Adventist Hospital has partnered with Washington, D.C.,-based Mary’s Center for Maternal and Child Care to build a new health care facility for families in eastern Montgomery County.

The center, expected to open in the spring, will focus on primary health care services for uninsured or low-income families and educational training programs to promote healthy living.

‘‘The impact we would see, over time, is having people that maybe don’t get consistent access, getting that access,” said Jere Stocks, president of Washington Adventist Hospital. ‘‘We’re always looking for folks we can work with closely to help us achieve our ‘Vision for Expanded Access,’ expand that safety net, access to care.”

The new center, at a yet-to-be-disclosed location in eastern Montgomery County, will be one way to reach the vulnerable communities who are a part of that vision, Stocks said.

The hospital’s plans were first unveiled and approved by the Adventist HealthCare Board of Trustees in 2005, and included what Stocks called seven elements to enhance access to community health care services, including the hospital’s move to a new site. Proposals included a health center in the Long Branch community.

Talks to connect the hospital with the Mary’s Center began nearly two years ago, after Sally Rudney, the executive director of the Montgomery County Community Foundation, linked representatives from both organizations to discuss building a primary care center in the county for families who were traveling to Washington, D.C., for their services.

‘‘This was really something Takoma Park was looking to do for many years,” said Maria Gomez, president and CEO of Mary’s Center.

Start-up construction costs, the cost of operating the new building and hiring eight employees for the first year, will be around $1.5 million, said Julie Beecher, vice president for business development at Mary’s Center who will head the new center. Both the hospital and Mary’s Center are looking to develop relationships with foundations to find more funding to cover construction and costs that may arise in the building process.

‘‘It’s certainly going to be a substantial, multiyear commitment,” said Stocks.

The site will likely go by the name of Mary’s Center Maryland, Gomez said, to make sure the services are recognizable and to avoid sinking income into advertising for the new center. In addition to primary health care services, the center also will have the educational programs that are offered at the D.C. site.

‘‘We’re taking care of the health aspect, but making sure the families are well-connected, as well,” Gomez said. ‘‘We want to make sure to be able to offer those wrap-around services.”

Services at the D.C. center include HIV testing and prevention, case management for teen pregnancies domestic violence counseling and literacy programs. Construction should begin once a location and details are finalized, said Stocks.

‘‘This relationship is one of many,” he said. ‘‘Others, I’m sure, will be coming forth ... all with the idea to expand access to care.”