Several years ago Cincinnati pharmacist, Chad Worz, figured out one small piece of the complicated health care puzzle. He opened the nation’s first full service, non profit pharmacy in the Cincinnati neighborhood where it was most needed. Before Pharmacy Over the Rhine opened its doors, some of Cincinnati’s poorest residents: the working poor, unemployed and underemployed, did without the medication they needed. Those who had money to pay often caught a bus or sometimes had to walk to pharmacies in other neighborhoods.
Wortz decided a non profit pharmacy would meet those needs. He arranged a location on the first level of Crossroads Health Center, a Christian medical facility already serving Over the Rhine. Despite the operating challenges, for three years they have supplied medication to neighborhood residents who need it most. The pharmacy accepts government and privately backed health plans. Those with no coverage can still get the medicine they need for a cash payment based on their ability to pay.
A Pharmacy in the Neighborhood
Bulletproof glass and a wall separate pharmacy staff from the patients they serve. These are the only obvious reminders that Pharmacy Over the Rhine is in an area still known for high poverty and crime. Beyond these few precautions it’s no different than any other pharmacy in any other Cincinnati neighborhood. The facility is staffed by professionals. They maintain regular hours, operate based on Ohio State Board of Pharmacy Guidelines and have the ability to fill any prescription presented.
With the influx of professionals to this historic neighborhood and the opening of trendy new shops along Vine Street, Over the Rhine’s neighborhood demographic has changed over the past few years. Some neighborhood residents earn professional salaries and have health insurance. Just like any traditional pharmacy, the non profit will accept insurance plans, cash payments or credit cards for those who have the means to pay. If the pharmacy makes a profit from a filled prescription, that money is reinvested into the business.
A Big Idea
When Pharmacy Over the Rhine opened its doors in 2007 it made national news. In a world of rising medical costs, the idea of a privately run, non profit pharmacy operated with donated medicine, grants and funding from local businesses was innovative indeed. The concept should have sparked a national trend; but it’s difficult to tell how many other pharmacies have followed suit.
A Google search turns up only a few other non profit pharmacies with similar missions. One of these, Community First Pharmacy, is also located in Southwest Ohio. That non profit is owned and operated by Fort Hamilton Healthcare in Hamilton, Ohio and has been in the non profit pharmacy business since 2008.
Is a Non Profit Pharmacy is Really Necessary?
While government programs like SCHIP. Medicaid and Medicare subsidize medication costs for some, there are many poor people in neighborhoods like Cincinnati’s Over the Rhine who don’t qualify for those programs. The recently unemployed, recently uninsured, uninsurable, working poor and homeless all have medical needs but may not qualify for government assistance. Some have medical plans that may pay for their medication but large deductibles and co-pays. Others have no transportation to pharmacies in nearby neighborhoods.
It’s too early to tell if any of these situations will change under the new health care reform guidelines. If the government does have a solution, it will be a while before it is implemented. In the meantime there are many people who still need the options offered by a neighborhood non profit pharmacy. Once the new health care system is up and running, that may still be the case.
St Vincent DePaul Charitable Pharmacy
Saint Vincent DePaul has been offering Cincinnati’s poor and low income families a different type of prescription assistance since 2006. With support from Academy of Medicine of Cincinnati, Leadership Cincinnati, Ohio State Board of Pharmacy, UC College of Pharmacy, Helen Steiner Rice Foundation and many others, Saint Vincent DePaul opened the Charitable Pharmacy. Like Pharmacy Over the Rhine it also offers medication to those who have no other means, but promotes their free service as a “pharmacy of last resort.”
How Can you Help?
Pharmacy Over the Rhine receives generous operating grants from local business giant, Carl Lindner, The Farmer Family Foundation, The Charles Dater Foundation, Astelles Pharmaceuticals and others. Pharmacy Over the Rhine will be happy to accept your donation as well. Go to pharmacyotr.com/ for more information.
Get Your Prescription Filled at Pharmacy Over the Rhine
If Pharmacy Over the Rhine is convenient to where you live, work or shop, you can have your prescriptions filled there just like any traditional pharmacy. Any profits from your insurance or other payment will be reinvested into the non profit pharmacy.
Pharmacy Over the Rhine is located at 5 East Liberty Street at Vine Street. 513-579-0900.
Charitable Pharmacy accepts donations as well. For information or to donate to their program go to www.svdpcincinnati.org/donate/donate.html
Charitable Pharmacy is located at the Saint Vincent DePaul facility at 1125 Bank Street in the West End. 512-421-CARE.