GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - Marillac Clinic, a community health care provider for the under- and uninsured, welcomed Kay Ramachandran, its new executive director, Jan. 7.
Before taking the job at Marillac, Ramachandran was CEO of Urban Peak in Denver, an organization that helps homeless youth and youth at risk of being homeless with essential services and skills for attaining self-sufficiency.
"Then I felt like I wanted to get back into community health," Ramachandran said. "Working for the uninsured and under-insured is a passion for me."
Ramachandran has worked in community health for more than 20 years, both in Canada and the United States.
In Canada, Ramachandran worked for a home health care organization, as well as a large for-profit health care company, where she said she learned her best lessons - "how to balance your nonprofit mission with a business bent of mind."
While in Boulder, Ramachandran additionally ran the People's Clinic for three years; it's a federally qualified health center that serves 10,000 patients yearly.
"It was a clinic in crisis and had to be turned around," Ramachandran said. "I was hired to do that. It was in financial crisis; there had been leadership turnover."
Not having access to health care is a social injustice, Ramachandran, 59, noted.
"That's what drives me to work in this environment, and why I was willing to relocate," she said. "I've been following Marillac for many years."
Kristy Schmidt, Marillac's director of community and donor development, stepped in as interim director after former Executive Director Steve Hurd retired in July 2012.
"It gave the agency continuity and time to find an executive director," Ramachandran said. "It does take time to find the right person with the right experience and right vision."
Marillac was founded in 1988 by a group of local health care professionals and community leaders who were concerned about the number of people in the Grand Valley who could not afford health care. Marillac's collaborative system - where medical, optical, dental and mental health care services are located under the same roof and providers refer to one another - has received national attention for its integrated model of care.
Marillac has its own team of health care providers, and it works collaboratively with a wide range of specialists in the community who provide discounted services. There are also physicians who volunteer at the clinic, 2333 N. Sixth St. in Grand Junction.
Plus, it offers heath care on a sliding-scale fee structure for both low- and middle-income patients. Marillac also operates a clinic in Palisade.
"One of the greatest attractions for me to come to Grand Junction - I heard such positive things how this community came together to take care of its own in regards to health care," Ramachandran said.
On Jan. 31, Marillac will offer free dental services for children as part of Give Kids A Smile Day. Youth 18 and younger, who are both low-income and uninsured, can make an appointment for cleanings, X-rays, exams, fluoride treatments and a treatment plan if more dental work needs to be done.
Ramachandran additionally said she looking to move the agency forward, in light of new health care reform.
"There will be more people covered under Obamacare (the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act). It's a great opportunity to match Marillac's mission with that," Ramachandran said.
"We have a lot of people uninsured in the valley now. We're not seeing all of them. Hopefully with health care reform we will see more of them.
"Marillac's whole philosophy is to provide health care for the poor."