Before Carey Rothschild became director of AccessHealth Spartanburg, she worked in a children’s advocacy program, a behavioral health hospital, and an emergency room. After years of helping people in the throes of crisis, moving upstream appealed to her.
“Working with an organization that addressed the root causes of challenges called to me,” she says. “We’re really trying to look at why people are in the situation they’re in and address the barriers to living a healthy lifestyle.”
Since 2011, Rothschild has led AccessHealth Spartanburg in its mission to open doors for people in Spartanburg County, S.C., who have no insurance and aren’t eligible for Medicaid or Medicare. Designed to be a link between the uninsured and a network of local health professionals, the organization has connected more than 7,500 low-income, uninsured residents to a medical home.
Funding from The Duke Endowment has helped Spartanburg and other communities develop these collaborative networks, which now exist in 72 counties across the Carolinas.
The networks collect a wealth of data to measure their impact, and have been shown to decrease emergency department use, lower hospitalizations and reduce hospital costs. At AccessHealth Spartanburg, the first network in South Carolina, the work saved hospitals an estimated $3.6 million in 2015.
“We look at the data we collect to see how we can improve and figure out why we might be stuck,” Rothschild says. “The idea is to celebrate success, but also look at where we have a chance to get better.”
Rothschild has a heart — tempered by a detail-oriented mind — for the effort she has helped pioneer. She and her team of 16 social workers, nurses, community health experts and office staff come to work believing that everyone should have access to quality health care. They partner with the people they serve, connecting them to the resources they need to return to jobs, graduate from school, or hold onto families and homes.
They practice “professionalism infused with compassion,” as one client put it.
Public perception is one of Rothschild’s hard-fought battles. When people distill being uninsured into a consequence of poor choices, she tells them that her clients cross boundaries of education, age and race. She reminds groups that adults without health insurance are more likely to delay necessary medical care, waiting until avoidable problems become an emergency. The lack of coverage, she explains, can have dire consequences across communities.
Back in her quiet office, Rothschild admits her own ideas about “the uninsured” have evolved.
“Any one of us,” she says, “could be the next person to walk through that door.”
Lin B. Hollowell III
Director, Health Care