Jun 012015

Daily Reflector – Reporter: Michael Abramowitz

Hundreds of people in financial need in Pitt and surrounding counties stocked up Friday on free over-the-counter medications, first-aid products and other home health care supplies thanks to local funding for a statewide program.

Greenville’s first “Over-the-Counter Medicine Giveaway Day” was organized by NC MedAssist and Access East at the Oakmont Medical Clinic on Red Banks Road. The products giveaway was made possible by Vidant Health Foundation and was open to any individual or family with a financial need.

Founded in 1997, NC MedAssist is a statewide nonprofit pharmacy that offers programs to address the needs of North Carolina’s children and adults. Services include free prescription medicines to low-income residents, over-the-counter medicines and senior care programs.

Each participant registered and completed a checklist of their needs based on what products were available. Each received more than $80 worth of OTC products, including allergy relief, pain relief, topical ointments, indigestion relief, first-aid, vitamins and more. While there, people were encouraged to fill out necessary paperwork to qualify for prescription medication assistance.

Since its inception, NC MedAssist has distributed more than $1.6 million dollars of donated OTC medication to North Carolina individuals and clinic partners. All OTC medication is donated to NC MedAssist by Second Harvest Food Bank of the Metrolina. The organization also dispenses more than $20 million worth of free prescription medication to 10,000 low-income North Carolinians each year. Since July 2014, NC MedAssist has dispensed over $132,000 in prescription medications to more than 530 people in Pitt County, Young said.

“There still are individuals in Pitt County that qualify for NC MedAssist’s free pharmacy program and this event will help educate people about available resources,” she said.

NC MedAssist’s overall goal is to help alleviate the strain on the health-care system by providing medications to those who normally use the emergency room for reasons such as fever, minor pain relief and treating cold and flu symptoms.

“Each dollar spent on OTC medication for people who cannot afford them provides a cost savings of $6,” Young said.

The Vidant Health Foundation recognizes the effect that programs like MedAssist and the OTC giveaway day have on community health and cost savings for providers and taxpayers, Kahla Hall, Vidant Health Foundation’s Community Benefit Grants Program director, said.

“By collaborating with NC MedAssist and Access East, we will be able to identify those who are uninsured and not currently using our programs and put them in contact with the right health-care resources,” Hall said.

Alma and Joseph Roberson of Williamston found out about the event from their family physician.

“Thank God I can get some free medications and supplies,” Alma Roberson, 81, said. “A lot of times when I go to pick up a prescription, I can’t afford to get it. This program makes a real difference for me.”

Choosing between buying food or medication is a real issue, Med Assist’s OTC program chairwoman Aiysha Hayes said.

“Our OTC Program is here to ease the burden of such a tough decision,” Hayes said. “We are delighted to be able to give back.”

Linda Jackson Dixon, 66, of Greenville was at the clinic with her goddaughter, who learned of the event from her employer, Greene County Health Care.

“Budgeting for medical needs is so hard for people like me who are on a fixed income,” Dixon said. “I could never have purchased some of these OTC medications on my own. A lot of people will say they care, but these people are doers. I thank God for them.”

For more information on the OTC Program and how to get involved locally with NC MedAssist, visit www.medassist.org. For more information on Vidant Health Foundation, visit www.vidanthealth.com.

Contact Michael Abramowitz at mabramowitz@reflector.com or 252-329-9571.

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