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Center provides prescription help

May 21, 2009|By MARLO BARNHART

HAGERSTOWN -- Since the inception of the Maryland Medbank program in 2000, Audrey Miller has watched the numbers of discount prescription drug recipients rise and fall with the economy.

She also has witnessed the breakaway of Washington County from the statewide Medbank program two years ago, forming the Medication Assistance Center for Washington County, of which she is director.

"We wanted an individual identity," Miller said. "Now, we can look a little deeper for grants."

And with a more localized identity, the center can more easily get funds from local fundraisers, such as a recent car show at Next Dimensions in Funkstown that brought in $1,200.

Housed at the Fennel Building at 324 E. Antietam St., Suite 201, the Medication Assistance Center can be reached at 301-393-3443.

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Miller was on board from the beginning, working out of the office that dealt with clients in Allegany, Garrett and Washington counties.

"Our site was one of the first," Miller said.

Baltimore City and Baltimore County then came on board and the movement spread through the state.

Medbank supplies prescription medications to low-income Marylanders who lack other prescription drug coverage. Since its inception, Medbank has distributed $90 million in free medication to 32,000 patients statewide.

Medbank is administered by a private entity that partners with pharmaceutical companies to distribute the medications.

Washington County Hospital provides the center with space, utilities and other needs, Miller said. Since the breakaway, the local center is getting only $20,000 so a movement is on to secure more funds to keep the work going.

Nine years ago, the center's work was aimed at any Washington County resident without prescription insurance. At that time, there was no Medicare D prescription assistance for older residents, Miller said.

Now, the center's work focuses more on the working poor and those who have lost or are losing their jobs, Miller said.

"We are trying to keep them out of the emergency room so we work closely with the hospital social workers and then we follow up," she said.

Most of the assistance comes in the form of lower-cost maintenance medications. Miller said the cost is linked to the household income eligibility requirements.

"There are also discount cards for other medications," Miller said. "Quite a few pharmacies participate."

Initial screening is conducted over the telephone with prospective clients. Then, documentation is submitted in person at the office.

"At any one time, we have around 350 clients," Miller said.

That number is growing because of the economy, she said.

A medical assistant by training, Miller is a Pennsylvania native. She is married and has two children.

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