Free prescription drug program in Lake County needs more participation and funding

CONCORD TOWNSHIP, Ohio — Prescription drug costs are already high and unaffordable for many, but with inflation, some of those prices have skyrocketed.

Fortunately, there is a program in Lake County that provides people with the medications they need for free. It’s called the Prescription Assistance Program, and it’s for Ohioans who need prescription drugs but can’t afford them, like Marge Burnett.

As a diabetic, Burnett knows a lot about the cost of prescription drugs, especially when insurance doesn’t foot the bill.

“Sometimes it triples the cost. And of course now with inflation and all. I mean, some of the drugs are just out of sight. And I probably wouldn’t be able to afford all of that,” Burnett said.

Luckily, she doesn’t have to worry – thanks to PAP.

Burnett started volunteering with the program several years ago through the Lake County Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), then quickly learned she could get help too.

“It was a blessing in disguise because I’m on social security and low income, so it works better for me,” Burnett said.

PAP President Joel Lucia said all of these drugs come from multiple sources and are sorted by volunteers at the Northeast Ohio Prescription Drug Repository in Concord Township.

“The State of Ohio passed a law called the Ohio Drug Repository Law that allowed groups like us and non-profit corporations to form and receive drugs that would otherwise be thrown away and provide them to people who can’t afford their medicine,” said Lucie. “We probably have three-quarters of a million dollars worth of drugs.”

Any Ohio resident who needs help can call, see if their medications are in stock, and register with a prescription from their doctor. Then the repository sends it by mail. Residents only need to pay a $10 shipping fee.

Per Ohio drug depot law, the pharmacy does not handle any controlled substances.

“We don’t do background checks. We do not do financial audits. If they call us, we assume they cannot afford their medication. So give us a call,” Lucia said. “We have people all through our program now, people who, if they didn’t get this medicine, would be unable to buy food for their children or are skipping their medicine.”

But even with the huge amount of drugs in the repository and the huge need in the community, tens of thousands of dollars worth of drugs are wasted each month simply because there aren’t enough people getting there. enroll in the program.

“We have around 700 people using the program. We can serve three, four times more,” Lucia said. “The only problem we have is that people think it’s too good to be true. And most people think it’s a scam. It’s not a scam.”

Additionally, Lucia said they faced another problem.

“If we can’t increase our funding or if someone else doesn’t pick up the slack, we’ll probably close by September or October next year,” Lucia said. “It would be nice if we could link up with the hospital or another organization that would need our services. This could expand our services.

Lucia said the program needs around $65,000 a year to keep it running. He gets funding from United Ways of Lake and Geauga counties, but needs more.

“We operate with limited resources. It’s an absolute minimum. There isn’t a program anywhere in Ohio that will give you the edge we can for the dollar. For every dollar we receive, we give back $5 or $6 to the community,” Lucia said.

And while they’re trying to figure that out, he wants people who are struggling to make ends meet to know that help is out there.

“Go spend the money on groceries or gifts for your kids. Get the medicine for free from us. We throw it away. So I don’t know how to convince people that we are real. We are alive. We are here. We are here to help you,” Lucia said.

Anyone interested in enrolling in the Prescription Assistance Program or wanting to donate money to help keep it open can call 440-350-1470 or visit the program’s website.

Jade Jarvis is a reporter for News 5 Cleveland. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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