Submitted by Unity Care NW

All people deserve the opportunity to live their healthiest life. To make this vision a reality health care must be available to everyone, including access to prescription medications. That mission was more important than ever when the COVID-19 pandemic hit our community in March of 2020. Unity Care NW sprang into action to keep patients and staff safe while continuing to keep services available. One innovative change was providing curbside and delivery services for prescriptions, a patient service that staff have long wanted to implement. Staff from other departments were reassigned for delivery and new systems were established for placing and delivering orders.

By adapting and innovating during the pandemic, the Unity Care NW pharmacy now provides delivery and curb-side pick-up for prescriptions for their patients. Photo courtesy Unity Care NW

Now the pharmacy is switching gears to support the vaccination effort. Currently 2,000 Unity Care NW patients have received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, and the organization is ready to ramp up vaccination efforts for patients as more vaccine is made available.

Unity Care NW is a nonprofit Federally Qualified Community Health Center that ensures their patients don’t have to choose between groceries or life-saving medications. Generous support from the community is what makes this possible. With more people struggling due to job loss caused by the pandemic and increased medical needs, there are more patients unable to afford their prescriptions. Thankfully, many can rely upon Unity Care NW’s Extend-A-Hand program.

Betty was the first Unity Care NW patient to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at the health center. The Unity Care NW Pharmacy is playing a crucial role in getting patients vaccinated. Photo courtesy Unity Care NW

The Extend-A-Hand program helps to cover the costs of prescriptions for Unity Care NW patients with no insurance, high deductibles, financial challenges, or who are experiencing homelessness. “This fund directly helps our most vulnerable patients by ensuring that they can access essential medications when they would otherwise go without,” Says Lisa Nelson, Pharmacy Director for Unity Care NW, “Often it’s just small charges they can’t afford like $3.50 or $5 dollars.”

This year thanks to contributions from Bellingham Bay Rotary, The Whatcom Community Foundation, and hundreds of donors through the Bellingham Herald’s efforts, Unity Care NW will be able to cover prescription costs for five times the amount of patients that the fund covered last year. Here are just a few of their stories:

Relief From Mental Illness

The Extend-A-Hand program helps to cover the costs of prescriptions for Unity Care NW patients. Their Pharmacy serves an average of 2,000 patients per month. Photo courtesy Unity Care NW

A 60-year-old with a variety of health care needs was living on approximately $650 a month. The individual was a frequent utilizer of Emergency Room services and had multiple hospitalizations. Extend-a-Hand funds were used to help pay for co-pays for their anti-psychotic and COPD medications. Now, the patient’s health has stabilized and their visits to the ER have been dramatically reduced.

Able To Breathe Again

A 55-year-old who had an insurance lapse was unable to afford three inhalers for COPD treatment. The patient was able to use Extend-A-Hand funds for these prescriptions until their insurance was reinstated.

Help for a Sick Child

An 11-year-old child who had an acute stomach virus was unable to swallow capsules or tablets. They needed liquid medication, but one of the three medications prescribed was not covered in liquid form by their insurance. This put a financial strain on the child’s parent, but thankfully Extend-A-Hand funds were able to be used to cover the cost for this crucial prescription.

A Veteran Finds Relief

A 45-year-old Veteran had a recurrent infection and could not afford their medication copays for treatment. The individual was very emotional and grateful when they learned that Extend-A-Hand funds would be used to cover the cost of their prescription so they could finally find relief.

If you would like to support Unity Care NW’s Extend-A-Hand Fund, click here to make a contribution. Learn more about Unity Care NW’s work here.

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