[caption id="attachment_10860" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Cris Chater"][/caption]
70 Skyview Terrace, Bldg. B
San Rafael 94903
SAN RAFAEL - Though she refuses to accept sole recognition for saving it, Marin County's only provider of adult day health care services would most certainly have closed without the staunch leadership of Cris Chater.
Since her arrival as executive director of San Rafael's Senior Access, the dynamic organizer who's seemed to have had a million lives in one has led a complete turnaround of the nonprofit. She forced her voice to be heard in front of supervisors, community leaders and business executives and found a viable funding solution for the health care program that had floundered for years.
"While it is an honor to receive this award, I do not accept it by myself. Everything we've accomplished I could not have done without my team, not behind me, but beside me," she said.
In October 2005, Ms. Chater assumed the reigns of the organization. The program was losing money and needed leadership.
"I had reached a point in my career where I wanted to return to giving back to the community, but I had no idea what I was getting myself into," she said.
"The program was going through 'founding-director-leaving syndrome,' and it needed a little bit of a face lift. I really had no choice but to jump in and take action right away."
She spent about a year assessing the organization; realigning staff, policies and procedures; and writing a development plan. After that, she headed into the community to speak to the board of supervisors, Rotary, the Department of Health and Human Services and others, fostering an increase in donations of more than 25 percent.
Despite her fundraising efforts, the inadequate Medi-Cal reimbursement model continued to threaten the financial sustainability of the program, and with the Marin County Department of Health and Human Services, she embarked on an 18-month journey to find a solution.
Finally, when it seemed they would have to close, Lifelong Medical Care, a federally qualified health organization, agreed to take over the license and administration of the health care portion of the nonprofit, garnering higher state reimbursement rates that saved the program.
On Nov. 11, the group celebrated another milestone, moving the adult day program part of the business to San Rafael into a bright new facility overlooking Mount Tamalpais. The building offers a variety of mental, social and physical activities for seniors and serves as the county's only Alzheimer's Day Care Resource Center.
Ms. Chater's journey to senior care took an interesting route, moving from Marin, to Europe, to New York, to Austria; from fashion, to filmmaking, and eventually to gardening. She was born in Mill Valley, but spent a portion of her childhood in Switzerland. She jetted from her high school graduation to New York, delving briefly into work in fashion before deciding to pursue her degrees.