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'My experience has been life changing': Pharmacy of Grace serves uninsured and underinsured patients in WyCo

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Posted at 5:50 PM, Aug 16, 2023

WYANDOTTE COUNTY, Kan. — A nonprofit pharmacy in Wyandotte County, Kansas, wants to fill an important gap in health care by making medications affordable for those who are underinsured or uninsured.

According to national data, 20% to 30% of prescriptions written by doctors are never filled. Unmanaged diseases cost the U.S. health care system an estimated $100 billion per year.

Pharmacy of Grace was established to fill a gap in health care, while also breaking down other health care barriers such as language and transportation.

“Last month we jumped 12 prescriptions per day, so our growth right now is kind of exponential,” said board chair John Yost. “So from the mission point, it’s been amazing.”

The pharmacy is located in Wyandotte County, where one in five people have no medical insurance. The location of the pharmacy was intentional, knowing 30% to 40% of the population is uninsured.

“We have patients that have told us that they would skip a drug. They knew they would end up back at the hospital but they had no choice,” said Yost. “We’ve had providers that said that for the first time, they had diabetic patients whose blood glucose has managed.”

It has been a year since Marie Barks started going to Pharmacy of Grace. Before switching over, she was going without prescribed medication and was even hospitalized.

“I’m uninsured, and I was having to pick and choose which medicines I filled cause of the price being so high,” said Barks. “It could be kind of deadly, especially for me. I was at coma level on my thyroid levels, which meant I could’ve went to sleep and not wake up.”

Barks is now able to afford all 11 of her medications at around $62 per month. She said she’s saving about $100 each trip to the pharmacy.

“Pharmacy of Grace has been a life saver for me,” said Barks. “They were very friendly, attentive — they knew you were there right away. The process of getting accepted ain’t very long.”

The staff says they anticipated helping a lot of people in dire poverty, but they were surprised to see how much of those who are employed also need assistance.

“We’ve filled about 6,000 prescriptions since we opened and about 3,000 of those (are) 100% below the poverty level,” said Yost. “We seem to get busier and busier, so we anticipate that’ll continue. So, our challenge the next year is how do we keep funding it?”

The pharmacy is hoping for more partnerships and donors so that patients like Barks will not have to go without their prescribed medicines.