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Government News
Free Pharmacy Provides Safety Net
Psychiatric News
Volume 39 Number 15 page 5-5

A quiet effort to provide low-income people with life-saving medications through a free pharmacy received statewide publicity when Mississippi Medicaid officials suggested it as a resource to the 65,000 people who were slated to lose their Medicaid benefits (see story at left).

Five years ago the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, a lay Catholic organization that helps the poor, set up the pharmacy in Biloxi for people who could not afford medications for such life-threatening illnesses as diabetes and heart disease.

The SunHerald reported on July 2 that pharmacy client Stacy Jacobs told reporter Kat Bergeron, "I'm bipolar, and if not for this place, I'd be up and down like a roller coaster. The medicine means I can drive and take care of my three children. I was off the medicine for a little while because I couldn't afford it, and then I heard about this pharmacy."

The pharmacy has a staff of seven pharmacists and a team of 52 volunteers who answer phones and screen applicants.

Two-thirds of the medications dispensed come from pharmaceutical samples donated by local physicians, with the remainder purchased through fundraising, donations, and grants.

In 2003 they served 758 clients, a jump of 30 percent over the previous year.

Theresa Pavlov, the pharmacy director, told Bergeron, "We are a last resort. You have to have no way to pay for your medicines, nothing left at the end of the month."

When Medicaid officials suggested the pharmacy as a source of medications, the "phone began ringing off the hook," according to the article.

Staff and volunteers were already thinking about expanding because of the growth in demand the previous year.

But, Pavlov pointed out to Bergeron, "Our mission is not to take over a state function. We can't suddenly have 1,000 new people. We are here for the people on the Coast, and our first obligation is to the people already in the program."

Gov. Haley Barbour (R) announced a delay from July 1 to September 15 of the date for implementation of the Medicaid beneficiary cuts.

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