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Children’s Clinic has new director, approaches Community Bank for loan


Daniel A. Wasneechak likes a challenge, and he’s found just that in his new position as executive director of the North Country Children’s Clinic.

After just three weeks on the job, Mr. Wasneechak has delved into the agency’s successes and struggles, and is preparing for an uphill battle.

“I don’t think it’ll surprise anyone when I say my biggest challenge is survival,” he said Thursday during an introductory luncheon at the Macsherry Parish Center at Trinity Episcopal Church, 227 Sherman St. “We know there’s a big struggle in the north country. To make ends meet and draw in primary care physicians makes it harder to care for people who are underserved.”

He said the agency, which will be known as the North Country Family Health Center once state approval is confirmed, is not immune to the struggle.

As services expand, the children’s clinic needs more funding. Federal and state grant money has yet to flow through the agency, which has created a financial bind. Because of that, Mr. Wasneechak said, the agency has approached Community Bank for a short-term loan. During his first week on the job, he said, the agency was concerned about making payroll.

“It was open-ended,” he said of the loan amount. “What really happens is most of our money is from the feds, and after Oct. 1, that money becomes available. Over the summer, we don’t have money coming in through our school-based health centers. All money we know is coming. We’re held in limbo, so we ran into a little crunch.”

The Children’s Clinic already has loans through the Watertown Trust and the Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency, according to JCIDA Chief Executive Officer Donald C. Alexander. If the clinic ever defaults on its JCIDA loan, Mr. Alexander said, the JCIDA could take some of the clinic’s assets. He said the JCIDA, Children’s Clinic, Watertown Trust and Community Bank all may sit down soon to talk about the Community Bank loan and collateral backing.

The clinic will watch closely how it spends money over the next few months, Mr. Wasneechak said.

Last June, the clinic received a $650,000 grant through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to transition to a federally qualified health center, and to open another such site in Lewis County.

“Much of those resources we got in the grant went to startup and overhead,” Mr. Wasneechak said.

The agency had long offered medical, mental health and dental services for children and dental services for adults, but the expansion into a federally qualified health center has opened the clinic to offering mental and medical health services to adults.

“I truly believe in building a firm foundation of health and education; healthy kids become healthy seniors,” Mr. Wasneechak said. “These are the types of programs I believe need to be implemented everywhere.”

The agency soon will roll out its Health Care for All program, which is aimed at serving the local homeless population.

The past three weeks of challenges, Mr. Wasneechak said, have proved the clinic’s top post is the perfect job for him.

“I’m very happy to be here,” he said. “Challenges also help you move things along for change. Empty appointment slots don’t bring money into the clinic.”

The clinic serves people without insurance, those who are underinsured and those who have adequate insurance.

“We’re here to take care of the health care needs of everyone in Jefferson County,” Mr. Wasneechak said. “We welcome everyone.”

That also comes at a price; the clinic is searching for a part-time grant application writer to secure additional funding streams to release some financial pressure.

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