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Church-based pharmacy meets needs of seniors, those on fixed incomes

DAVIS, Okla. (BP)–With the rising cost of prescriptions, it is increasingly difficult for senior citizens and those on fixed incomes to meet their medical needs. “One family in our area mortgaged their house to try and pay their medication bills,” said Lonnie Lee, pastor of First Baptist Church, Davis, Okla. That, coupled with the fact the church wanted to reach out to the community, prompted the Davis church to open a pharmacy in its building. “The idea for the pharmacy came out of left field,” Lee admitted. “I didn’t know anything like this was possible.” But W.T. Young, who grew up in Davis and moved back there for his retirement years, had done volunteer work at the Baptist Mission Center in Oklahoma City and knew about the pharmacy work done there. He and fellow church member Wayne Webb built shelves for the medications in a room formerly used for preschoolers. The pharmacy is fully licensed, insured and incorporated under the name Davis Charities. Two local pharmacists, Randy Moore who owns City Drug, and Mike Lee from Sooner Pharmacy, staff the church-sponsored pharmacy, alternating every other Tuesday night. In seeking to fill a void in the Davis area for meeting the physical needs of people, Lee noted, “We’re doing what we can to reach the community and also to improve the image of the church in the community.” In addition to the pharmacy, the church operates a food bank and clothing ministry and feeds families through a commodity program. Lee said initial start-up costs for the pharmacy ministry was probably about $1,500, which included the shelves and readying a room to house the medication, in addition to licensing, insurance, incorporation and computer program costs. “However, cost per year should not be more than $350,” Lee said. “That’s a pretty inexpensive ministry.” None of the ministries to the community is in the church budget, Lee said, explaining, “Volunteers do the work and the money for expenses is donated.” Medicines for the pharmacy come from doctors’ samples, while the pharmacists donate their time and volunteers sort the pills into glass jars and label them. “One thing we really need is for more doctors to contribute sample medications,” Lee said. “We will go and pick up the medications. We need a bigger base from which we can obtain medications.” Lee said those asking for their prescriptions to be filled have to fill out forms making sure they really need the ministry. “We don’t fill prescriptions of people who are insured or can afford the medicines,” Lee said. “Ninety percent of the people we serve are senior citizens.” A lot of people fall in cracks between what the government can do for them and what they can do for themselves, the pastor said. Local pharmacists were against the program when it was first mentioned, thinking they would lose business, but it actually has helped them, Lee said. “They told us they were writing off about $50,000 a year in unpaid prescription bills,” he said. “We told them, `That’s the business we want.'” He said many times the pharmacists now call and ask if the church pharmacy has a certain medication in stock. Moore, a member of Davis’ Pentecostal Holiness Church, said he thinks the church’s pharmacy program is “a great deal.” “We have a lot of folks in town on fixed incomes, and the free medication has helped them over the hump,” Moore said. “There are people who go along for years and make it fine,” he added. “Then they come up with cancer or congestive heart failure and it overwhelms them.” Lee emphasized the church wants the pharmacy to be a community ministry. “We are not as concerned with what church people attend as we are that they come to know Christ,” he said. “This program has given us the opportunity to touch lives we otherwise could never have touched.”

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  • Dana Williamson