‘It helps keep me alive’: Williamsburg clinic receives grant to give patient prescriptions free of cost

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Pharmaceutical technician Tisha Monge provides Janice Houff with a free 90-day supply of generic medication made possible through the new AMP, or Access to Medication, program. (Courtesy Dominion Energy)

Every day, Olde Towne Medical & Dental Center Clinic Director Kendra Robinson sees patients who can’t afford their essential prescription medications.

Sometimes it means choosing between eating dinner or taking their medication, Robinson said. Other times, patients forego picking up their prescription because they do not have transportation to a pharmacy.

Now, through a $25,000 grant from Dominion Energy, the medical clinic in Williamsburg has the ability to take cost and transportation out of the prescription equation.

The clinic is taking part in a pilot program, created by nonprofit RxPartnership, which allows insured and uninsured patients to receive potentially life-saving generic prescriptions free of charge at the clinic.

“I think we all know in today’s economic times, healthcare can be really challenging and expensive,” patient Clayton Ashby said Friday during an interview with Dominion at the clinic.

Ashby was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes in 2015.

“[The program] not only helps keep me financially afloat, it helps keep me alive,” he added.

Dominion Energy Manager of Corporate Philanthropy Cindy Balderson (far left), and Dominion Director of Communications Jen Kostyniuk (far right), present a $25,000 grant to Old Towne Medical Center Director William Mann and RxPartnership Executive Director Amy Yarcich. The grant will help provide free generic medications to low-income or uninsured patients. (Sarah Fearing/WYDaily)

The $25,000 grant from Dominion will provide medications for Williamsburg clinic patients for a period of six months, RxPartnership Executive Director Amy Yarich said. After the initial six months, RxPartnership will seek to fund the program again so clinic patients can continue having access to their medications.

“We are so excited to get this program here in Williamsburg,” said Jennifer Kostyniuk, a Williamsburg native and director of Dominion Energy Communications. Kostyniuk is also a member of the Rx Partnership Board of Directors.

Before the program’s April 1 launch, the Olde Towne Medical & Dental Center, located at 4249 Olde Towne Road, has assisted patients in paying for their medications – a cost difficult to budget because it varies monthly, Yarich said.

Center Executive Director William Mann said patients not being able to pay for their medications is a “constant” issue at the clinic. The center accepts all patients, whether they have money or insurance or not.

“In our population, it’s essentially everybody,” Mann said of those who struggle to pay for medications. “We have a huge number of patients who, if it wasn’t for the fact we are right on the bus line, they wouldn’t even have a way to get here.”

Robinson said Williamsburg’s status as a tourist destination results in a lot of “working folks” in the service industry. Seasonal work, which is common in the area, can also make paying for medical case difficult, she added.

Many seasonal workers and those with low income are patients at the clinic, she said.

According to 2014 data from the United States Census Bureau, 20.1 percent of residents in Williamsburg are living in poverty, a substantially greater percentage than the U.S. poverty rate of 13.5 percent.

Williamsburg’s poverty rate is also almost double Virginia’s rate of at 11.5 percent of the population.

The clinic provides a diverse array of services, including medical, prenatal, psychiatric, orthopedic services and much more, Mann said. Operations rely on funding and support from volunteers, the Williamsburg Health Foundation, the City of Williamsburg and James City and York counties.

Participation in the RXPartnership program at the clinic requires patients to show their level of income and complete paperwork to show they are eligible, Houff said.

“They put me on medication, and I said ‘Well I can’t afford this,’” patient Janice Houff said. “He told me don’t worry about it Janice, we have a program here.”

Without the program, Houff believes she and other patients would be unable to get the medical attention they need.

“A lot of people would be hurt. They wouldn’t be able to afford the medication. They wouldn’t even be able to afford the doctor’s appointment,” Houff said.

For Ashby, the prescription program provides much-needed alternatives.

“I think people should know that there are options and opportunities to manage your healthcare… that aren’t such a challenge financially,” Ashby said.

Fearing may be reached at sarah.f@localvoicemedia.com.

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