Diane Peltz – Contributing Writer
Recently Med Assist, a Mobile Free Pharmacy came to Macon County Community Facilities Building and dispensed over-the-counter (OTC) medicines to more than 1,000 people. Med Assist is a statewide free pharmacy program that provides free pharmacy services (prescription medication) to more than 100 counties in North Carolina. The Mobile Free Pharmacy team travels to at least 35 counties each year dispensing free OTC and prescription medicines to those in need.
At the Thursday, Oct. 11, event, each person went home with at least eight items to fill their medicine cabinet for the Fall/Winter seasons. Items included pain relief, cold medicine, children’s medicines, vitamins, contact lens solution and much more. These events usually average about 600-800 people and they bring enough medicines to serve 1000 people. Everyone who showed up at the Community Center received a bag full of OTC medicine.
The process was smooth, and although the line was long, residents did not have to wait more than about 20 minutes from start to finish. A form was given to each person who wanted one and the basic information was only name and address. There was no proof of residency, income or ID required. On the back of the form was a list of the OTC medicines available to residents. They simply checked the box of the medicine they wanted and everyone was able to choose eight different types of OTC meds. The forms were collected in numerical order, by friendly staff members, who filled each bag and then handed them back. As they were leaving, people were invited to stop in another room to get three more items. Among those items were chapsticks, eye solutions, glucose tablets, and feminine products.
In yet another part of the center, aside from the OTC medicines, residence were able to get free reading glasses and a skin cancer check up at no charge.
Residents of Macon County were apprised of this giveaway with help from the Health Department and the Macon School nurses. Messages regarding the event were sent out via the school alert line by text, email and phone calls. A grassroots approach was also put into place by distributing flyers to local safety-net partners (ie: clinics and health departments.)
Med Assist is able to provide this service at no cost to residents through donated items from Second Harvest Food Bank, who is a part of Feeding America. Med Assist depends on what is sent to them every week. Truck loads of food and OTC meds are donated by supermarkets and other retail stores. A presort is done at the Charlotte office to determine which categories can be accepted, depending on the amount. Categories frequently include cold and cough, children’s vitamins, digestive aids and eye care products.
Carolina Complete Health (CCH) is another community partner that assisted in bringing this program to Macon County. CCH is a partnership between the North Carolina Medical Society (NCMS) and Centene Corporation, a Fortune 500 company with more than 30 years experience in managed care programs, providing managed care services and programs to Medicaid recipients in North Carolina.
Med Assist gets 21% of its prescription medications donated through Patient Assistance Programs. Anyone willing to donate toward the purchase of generic medication can do so online at www.medasssit.org/donate or call to speak with a member of the Development Team at 704-536-1790.
Although this was the first time the Mobile Free Pharmacy visited Macon County, it will not be their last. Officials say they plan to try to come to Macon County at least once a year. Statistics show that more than 2,600 people in Macon County are both low-income and uninsured. The hope is that they can also identify those who may need help with prescription services.