Rubiselda was late. Twenty-two minutes late.
I was nervous. The local news station with camera crew and news anchor were waiting for Rubiselda Velazquez, a patient of Mercy and Truth Medical Missions. They had just finished their interview with the executive director of Pharmacy of Grace, the first freestanding nonprofit pharmacy in the Kansas City area.
The news crew had already interviewed the pharmacist and filmed the renovation currently in progress. But Pharmacy of Grace wanted to highlight a Mercy and Truth client experiencing challenges paying for medications and how this service will benefit him or her. Client testimonials always make a story hit home just a little harder.
“Trust me,” I had said when they contacted me about a client willing to be interviewed. “It won’t be hard to find someone to fit that bill.”
But she was late.
The news crew were documenting what this pharmacy service will mean to our clients. Pharmacy of Grace will fill a huge gap in services that are needed by Mercy and Truth, as well as other safety net clinics and uninsured and underinsured patients. They will provide low-cost prescriptions to our clients and those of other safety net clinics. Pharmacy staff will also sit down with each and every patient to make sure that they understand the importance of taking their medications as they were prescribed.
This model of having a safety net clinic along with a freestanding nonprofit pharmacy, is an example of what an integrated care model aims to accomplish: by physically bringing together services in one trusted location, we can better serve the health of the whole person, rather than leaving the patient to navigate multiple services across various locations. This model also solves another critical barrier to care: transportation challenges. In July, a patient can literally walk across the building and get their medications after seeing their provider.
The pharmacy anticipates opening in mid-July and will reside in the Mercy and Truth Medical Missions Wyandotte County building.
But back to the interview and the waiting news crew. We were waiting for our client Rubiselda Velazquez. When she finally arrived, she explained, via an interpreter who was Mercy and Truth’s community health worker, WHY she was late.
She’d spent the night in the Advent Health emergency room, with a blood sugar reading of 580. (Readings around 140 are normal.) The ER staff gave her intravenous medication, which brought the reading down to a safer level, as she did not want to be admitted to the hospital. She is uninsured.
During the television interview, she was so brave, and open and honest about the challenges that she was having. After hearing her story, Mercy and Truth Medical Missions, aided by many friends/partners, sprang into action.
Food: The Church of the Resurrection’s Mobile Food Pantry distributes free food twice monthly at Mercy and Truth to families in need. To also serve homeless families, they bring small bags of food that can be given out to individuals who need immediate help. The client got two bags.
Prescription: She had not stayed overnight in the hospital so had not gotten any lab results back yet. She had no idea that she needed an antibiotic for a urinary tract Infection. A board member from Mercy and Truth agreed to pay for her prescription.
Prescription Assistance: Pharmacy of Grace, while not open yet, has assured Mercy and Truth that she can qualify for the patient assistance program for her diabetes medication.
Emergency room bill: We sent an email to Advent Health explaining her circumstance. Thanks to their generosity, the patient’s emergency room bill will be completely covered under their charity care program.
Physician group bill: The physician group that saw her in the emergency room was contacted and agreed to write off the fee for their services.
Place to stay: A week after the interview, the patient came back to Mercy and Truth for assistance in enrolling for housing with Hillcrest Transitional Housing. As there is a six-to-eight week wait, the team is still working on this one!
Everyone in the safety net clinic world is busy. But busy means that lives are being changed and saved each and every day. Thank you to Health Forward Foundation and others who support this critically important, but also critically challenging, work.
Because Mercy and Truth, and its clients, get by with a little help from their friends.
Facts to note:
- Wyandotte County: Almost 1 in 5 with no medical insurance (17 % uninsured) (28,095 individuals)
- 14% of county with diabetes (23,137 people)
- Diabetes: one of top five most diagnosed conditions at Mercy and Truth
- Pharmacy of Grace will soon offer low-cost insulin to the uninsured
- April 2022: U.S. House of Rep passed a bill that would limit cost of insulin to $35/month for those WITH insurance (Affordable Insulin Now Act)