A SLIGHT BREEZE BLOWS OVER Clovernook Country Club, keeping the temperatures mild and pushing away the clouds that soaked the area with rain earlier in the day. More than 100 golfers stand alongside rows of carts just outside of the clubhouse as St. Vincent de Paul Executive Director Mike Dunn grabs a microphone and addresses the crowd.
Mostly, the focus of his announcement is this: “Thank you.” For the last 11 years, friends of St. Vincent de Paul’s Charitable Pharmacy have been gathering and golfing as a means of supporting the Pharmacy and those it serves. The Pharmacy is the only stand-alone pharmacy in southwest Ohio dedicated to providing medication and professional pharmaceutical care to people in need—all for free.
It is a last resort safety net for those who have no other way to access their prescription medication, and the need is massive. Since it opened in September 2006, the Charitable Pharmacy has filled more than 421,000 prescriptions, with a total estimated retail value of over $49.7 million.
Providing expensive medications for free, of course, comes at a huge cost, and those standing among the golf carts are one of the primary reasons why the Pharmacy has been able to meet that need. The day’s event, The Prescription Fore Fun Golf Outing, Presented by Protective Life, raises roughly half of the money the Pharmacy spends on purchasing the medications required to serve the growing list of neighbors who come through its doors.
IT WAS EARLY SPRING when Juan walked through the front door of the Liz Carter Outreach Center and up to the front desk. Uncertain and confused, he explained through broken English that he was in need of help from the pharmacy. He was diabetic and could not afford the multiple medications he was prescribed by his physician, which included insulin and a host of diabetes testing supplies.
A pharmacy volunteer called Juan into a small consulting area, and found an interpreter so they could talk in Juan’s native Spanish. The three of them sat in the room for several hours, exploring in detail Juan’s needs, educating him on the medications he was being provided, how he needed to take them and what effects they would have.
Such in-depth consultations are not common at other pharmacies—and one of the ways that St. Vincent de Paul’s Charitable Pharmacy stands apart. In addition to a complete medical interview with new patients, it conducts weekly update phone calls and requires in-person interviews every six months in order to keep a more detailed account of the patient’s progress. It also encourages patients go through a broader educational process as part of their receiving any medication.
With Juan, the education focused on improving his blood sugar goals and making healthier dietary choices—something not uncommon for many of the Pharmacy’s patients. More than 55 percent of those who come to the Pharmacy are diabetic and need to combine their insulin shots with other activities, such as exercise and better eating choices.
Juan understood his challenge. He worked on improving his overall health, and within two months dropped his A1C level—the measure of diabetes control—by two percentage points. That, in turn, reduced his risk for heart attack and stroke by 80 percent.
WLW RADIO PERSONALITY Seg Dennison stands on the practice putting green between the clubhouse and the first tee, intently focusing on the ball at his feet. He slowly draws the club head back and gives the ball a firm tap, sending it strategically along the edge of the green before hooking left and heading down a hill toward the hole some 40 feet away.
Each year as part of the outing, golfers pause just before the first tee to take part in a putting contest. Each golfer in the foursome gets one shot at making a rather challenging putt, and the distance they leave the ball from the hole is measured and totaled together. The foursome with the least amount of distance to the hole at the end of the day wins a free round at Clovernook.
The only caveat to the contest is they can have Dennison, this year’s celebrity putter, make a substitute putt if they are unhappy with their own effort—for a price. Each replacement putt requires a $10 donation to the Pharmacy.
Fortunately for the Pharmacy, there were a lot of bad—or at the very least generous—putters among the groups. With every foursome that came through, wallets came out and putts went down. Dennison improved on almost all of the putts he replaced, including a hole-in-one for the winning group.
In all, the putting contest brought in several hundred dollars to the day’s earnings, which is significant to the operational necessities of the Pharmacy. Through efforts and efficiencies, the Pharmacy is able to stretch each dollar so it purchases $10 worth of medications. And even though 82 percent of the Pharmacy’s medications are dispensed with donated sources, the remaining 18 percent must be self-funded, which amounts to more than $100,000 a year—a number that is growing significantly.
The Pharmacy is the only stand-alone charitable pharmacy in the area, and in 2018 it saw a 12 percent growth in the number of patients served, a rate that is difficult to sustain for a nonprofit organization providing free medication.