Equitas Health thrives on fulfilling unmet needs

 

When President and CEO Bill Hardy started with the organization that became Equitas Health, he had a staff of three and a budget of about $200,000 in his Dayton office.

“When I took the position 25-plus years ago, I said I would do it for a couple years or until I thought I could no longer make a difference,” he says.

He’s still around because there’s no end to the challenge.

“There are never any dull moments — and actually I thrive on that,” Hardy says.

With lots of changes over the years, the most transformational moment came in 2012. AIDS Resource Center Ohio, a community-based AIDS service organization that provided case management and HIV prevention and testing, became a health care organization. It rebranded to Equitas Health four years later to emphasize its expanded mission.

Equitas Health is a regional not-for-profit community-based health care system and federally qualified community health center look-alike. It focuses on population health and being the gateway to good health for those impacted with or at risk of HIV, the LGBTQ community and others needing a welcoming health care home. The organization provides primary care, infectious disease services, behavioral and mental health services, dentistry and pharmacy, which is its key social enterprise.

Since 2011, Equitas Health’s annual budget grew from about $6 million to $75 million, Hardy says. It has 17 locations across Ohio, a staff approaching 350 and is one of the largest organizations of its type in the U.S.

Evolving as needed

Hardy, who likes to refer to himself as the chief future officer, could see that the organization needed a new direction. While it was a risky and transformational leap to move to a new sector, it was part of an ongoing evolution.

The national AIDS strategy, which came out of President Barack Obama’s cabinet, dictated what future AIDS services would look like with treatment (viral suppression) and prevention (pre-exposure prophylaxis), and both of those required primary care providers.

“We had lots of the wraparound services (like) patient-centered medical home models, to providing behavioral health and counseling and social work. What we needed was the primary health care component,” Hardy says.

He also saw other best practice organizations following a similar trend.