Akron was the only metropolitan area in Ohio without a federally qualified health center (FQHC), which deliver primary medical and dental care in medically underserved areas. FQHC’s are commonly referred to as community health centers. Dr. Bill Keck, the director of the Akron City Health Department at the time, had previously tried to start an FQHC in Akron, but there were not any federal funds available and he was discouraged from applying.
In the mid-90’s Ralph Faulkner, a Cleveland State graduate student, contacted Dr. Keck seeking data related to health services in Akron for a project he was working on. Faulkner received the information he needed and continued with his project. The next time Dr. Keck met with him, Mr. Faulkner had a major announcement; he had gotten the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to declare an area of Akron as a medically underserved area and had applied to create an FQHC in Akron. The application was unfortunately denied due to a lack of connections with other community agencies and resources. So, Mr. Faulkner turned to Dr. Keck for consultation to make the next application stronger.
After much thought and many discussions with his confidants, Dr. Keck decided to join with Ralph Faulkner and move forward with the project. Their next step was meeting with the Akron City Health Department and the three local hospitals, Akron Children’s, Akron General and Summa, to see if a partnership could be forged. Fortunately for AxessPointe, the hospitals agreed to partner together for the good of their community and also agreed to provide matching funding, a key component the original application was missing.
This was an unusual process in several ways. Firstly, they were starting from scratch and there wasn’t anything in existence. Many FQHC’s evolve out of former nonprofits, groups or other offices. These established groups essentially evolved into an FQHC and brought themselves into compliance with the federal rules and regulations. With that, Dr. Keck and Mr. Faulkner knew they had a lot of convincing to do. There also had never been an FQHC beginning on the basis of a collaboration with a health department and hospitals. Now that they had funding and support, the group was able to create an application that filled the gaps that had been noted in the original submission.
A new application was sent to DHHS with documented community support, but the approval process hit a snag and frustrations ran high all around. It was during this stressful time that Dr. Keck personally met with the hospital CEOs and proposed that the project be put on hold. He did not want any negative publicity to tarnish the names of the hospitals or the health department. However, to Dr. Keck’s surprise, the hospitals said they were in this together, to continue to move forward and that Dr. Keck had the full resources of the hospitals at his command. Moving forward with a renewed confidence, the board of directors was reorganized to consist of Akron residents and a chair with years of experience. Compromises were found, and Akron Community Health Resources was established.