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A lifeline when there are no other options

Stories

March 02, 2023

Have you ever been in a stressful time full of things beyond your control?

For Mr. and Mrs. Thao* that stressful time occurred when they were both admitted to the hospital. Neither had health insurance. They were worried. Worried about what was wrong with each of them and what it would mean – What would it cost? Where would they go? Who could help them?

Once diagnosed, they received treatment plans and prescriptions for multiple medications. Yet the costs for a reduced rate prescription program was financially beyond their means.

A hand outstretched to help

At a follow-up appointment, a glimmer of hope appeared. Their nurse recommended the St. Vincent de Paul Charitable Pharmacy.

The Thaos now make monthly visits to the pharmacy to pick up their prescriptions – at no cost to them. They also receive support and encouragement from pharmacy staff and volunteers.

In its ten years of operation the St. Vincent de Paul Charitable Pharmacy staff have filled over 50,000 prescriptions for more than 1,500 uninsured adult patients.

Mr. and Mrs. Thao live healthier lives because of your care and commitment to our neighbors in need. Without you, each of these individuals would suffer from untreated effects of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and mental health conditions, and be susceptible to the flu and COVID-19 variants.

The pharmacy is often the last lifeline for patients who have nowhere else to turn. Many patients are initially referred from hospitals, emergency departments, and local clinics.

The St. Vincent de Paul Charitable Pharmacy in Madison.

Pill organizers and schedules.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The importance of good communication

Even as the couple started on a stable regime, there was one more hurdle to overcome.

Both Mr. and Mrs. Thao are native Hmong speakers with limited English. Thanks to Ricky, a St. Vincent de Paul Charitable Pharmacy volunteer fluent in the Hmong language, the couple can fully understand how to properly manage their conditions and medications.

Hmong is the third most common language spoken in Wisconsin. It’s primarily an oral language with a relatively short written history. For older Hmong adults who cannot read the language or speak English fluently, navigating life, including a detailed pharmacy visit can be difficult.

During each pharmacy visit, the couple sit down with Managing Pharmacist, Yolanda Tolson-Eveans, RPh, where she provides a pill organizer, schedule and calendar. The calendar shows images of the pills they’ll receive so they know what to expect (at right). Ricky is on hand to translate and explain her instructions.

“Ever since we’ve been here it’s been so helpful to have a schedule and calendar,” Mrs. Thao affirms. “We’re very thankful to the donors and everybody. Even as cold as it gets, the pharmacy staff is helping (outside for the curbside delivery). We’re grateful for the pharmacy and volunteers.”

Recalling their first meeting, Ricky immediately noticed Mr. Thao’s face relax when they were introduced.

“Bridging the gap of understanding and ensuring access to care is so important,” Ricky commented. “When you have someone that is of your culture and community, you have trust in the healthcare system. Trust in the pharmacists and trust in the pharmacy.”

Today, the world is a little brighter because of your dedication. Today, the Thaos and hundreds of neighbors like them can thrive.

How you can help pharmacy patients right now

In December 2022, Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023. There are several health-related policies in the document. One of the most notable for the pharmacy relates to changes in Medicare coverage. During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency, states were “prohibited from terminating or reducing benefits for most Medicaid enrollees.” During this time, Medicaid enrollment increased by nearly 30%. This “continuous coverage” will end this month, March 2023. States have three months to plan for a return to regular eligibility and enrollment but experts expect it could take up to a year for people to receive renewed coverage.

For neighbors relying on prescription medicine everyday, doing without them puts them at risk for declining health, job loss, and expensive emergency department visits. As patients are dropped from Medicaid coverage, it is anticipated that neighbors in need of free medication will drastically increase. To serve more patients, the pharmacy will expand operating hours. Additional hours will also allow UW-Madison School of Pharmacy students to provide patient care and earn valuable practical experience.

Here are three ways to help:

Sources: Princeton University, Unwinding Provisions in the 2023 Consolidated Appropriations Act, Georgetown University Health Policy Institute, Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023: Medicaid and CHIP Provisions Explained

 

*Using last names only to protect the neighbors’ privacy. Photos are representational.

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