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Volunteers help people get the meds they need

February 21, 2006|by JENNIFER FITCH

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Three volunteers at Chambersburg Hospital want people without prescription drug coverage to know they still have access to the medications they need.

Often, the drug companies offer the medications free of charge, the volunteers said.

"These pills aren't cheap, and they're giving them away," said Sam Clarke, one of the volunteers.

In 2004, the hospital's director of volunteers asked Clarke, Harold St. Clair and Karen Marshall to pilot a free service that helps people with the research and paperwork necessary to obtain their medications.

"This is a program that we work with people that don't have any drug coverage and have a lack of funds," said Marshall.

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A conversation between two men that was overheard by Earlyne McCleary, director of volunteers, first caused her to realize the need for the assistance.

One young man said he had recently lost his job and "had to make a choice between food that week or medicine," McCleary said.

Since the program's inception, the volunteers have worked with 135 clients, 43 doctors and 140 medications. They want to see all those figures increase through awareness.

"We still don't think it's known everywhere. I would like to see these figures doubled," said McCleary, who noted that many clients are from Franklin County, Pa., while some have hailed from as far as Allentown, Pa., Martinsburg, W.Va., and Hagerstown.

Most of the clients found the volunteers through a conversation with their doctors. However, McCleary explained that means the doctors need to be aware of the program and the patients must tell the doctor if they don't have prescription drug coverage.

Medicare participants are not eligible for the program, said Clarke.

Clarke, St. Clair and Marshall said they have gotten to know each of their clients and are excited when the process is successful.

"Hopefully it's a temporary help for people who need prescriptions," Marshall said. "A lot of the medicines we work with are for blood pressure and diabetes, very important medicine."

Clients take anywhere from one to 20 prescription medications, she said.

"Most drugs are covered or they can change their drug to something that is covered," said Marshall.

McCleary selected the three volunteers, from the pool of 400 active ones at Chambersburg Hospital, based on their computer knowledge and outgoing personalities. Most of the forms used in the process can be found on the Internet.

Clarke, St. Clair and Marshall, all Chambersburg residents, help the people who don't have access to the Internet or get frustrated by forms, according to McCleary.

"Volunteers are here because they want to be," said Marshall.

"We're always looking for new services to help the community," echoed McCleary.

For more information, call 717-267-7142.

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