As indicated by the very fact that a doctor took time to prescribe them, prescription medications are important and even life-sustaining. They can, however, also come with a huge price tag. It was never something I had to worry about as I had always had health insurance through my mother’s employer. But my good fortune is not shared by the majority of the patients that receive health care at Sulzbacher Center, a federally qualified healthcare center in downtown Jacksonville.
Sulzbacher offers health care services to homeless and low-income individuals. The mission of Sulzbacher is to empower homeless and at risk women, children, and men through health, housing, and income services, thereby restoring hope and self-sufficiency. My primary function involves administration of the Center’s patient assistance program (PAP), which allows our clients, most of whom have no health insurance and little to no income, to receive medications for free directly from pharmaceutical companies. The PAPs not only allow the clients to receive the medications they need, but also save Sulzbacher money.
Sulzbacher provides free medications to all of our clients without health insurance--over 500 individuals. Some of these medications are extremely expensive and would strain Sulzbacher’s limited funds if the Center had to purchase them at retail. This is where my role comes into play. I assist our clients in qualifying for various patient assistance programs that allow them to receive medication free of cost directly from the company that manufactures it. Over 20 pharmaceutical companies have patient assistance programs, but each requires a separate application. Sulzbacher has over 300 patients who receive at least one medication through PAP.
Many of Sulzbacher’s clients have type 2 diabetes and are prescribed insulin. Insulin is extremely expensive (it can cost more than $1000 per month), but our clients without insurance are able to receive their insulin for free directly from the manufacturer. One challenge facing many of our patients is that insulin must be refrigerated, and many of Sulzbacher’s patients are homeless and lack reliable access to a refrigerator. Sulzbacher meets this challenge by refrigerating and storing insulin for its patients until they need it.
The work I do is tremendously rewarding. Recently, I helped a client enroll in the NovoNordisk Patient Assistance Program. This client is both new to the Jacksonville area and recently homeless. He thanked me because this program will ensure that he receives his life-sustaining insulin at no cost. He even told me that I saved his life. I told him that I felt fortunate to be able to serve him! I am thankful to be able to help individuals in the Jacksonville area and look forward to the next six months serving at Sulzbacher Center.
This blog was authored by NHC Florida Member Katie Reilly.
She serves at The Sulzbacher Center as a Patient Navigator