Free health centers pursue donated medicines
OSAGE BEACH – Missouri Baptists who have a vision for faith-based community health centers like the one that opened June 6 in Osage Beach are now able to obtain prescription drugs from nursing homes that would otherwise be disposed of after patients die.
It has been common practice, based on so-called compliance with the law, for two registered nurses in a nursing home to literally flush this medication down the toilet. However, language in the Prescription Drug Repository Program, which became law last year, now makes it possible for this nursing home medication to be obtained by pro-bono health centers such as the Good Samaritan Care Clinic in Mountain View, which is supported by First Baptist Church of Mountain View.
Rep. Wayne Cooper, R-Camdenton and a general practice physician who helped start Medical Missions for Christ Community Health Center, estimated that $20-30 million worth of pharmaceuticals in Missouri nursing homes are being flushed annually. Kerry Messer, lobbyist for the Christian Life Commission of the Missouri Baptist Convention, emphasized that faith-based clinics ought to eagerly participate in reducing this horrible amount of waste by legally obtaining some of this medicine.
“There are Christian medical providers in our churches who should pray about whether, through knowledge of this opportunity, (they) ought to be considering creating this type of ministry in their local community,” Messer said.
“We’re talking about recycling pharmaceutical products that many people who financially cannot afford those, yet need them for their medical care (can obtain) by thinking outside of the box like this, and it’s not government money just to go and collect these things. Because they are controlled substances, there are some government hoops that have to be jumped through, but the opportunity is there. Why shouldn’t churches that have the vision and the ability go ahead and step through those particular hoops?”
Cooper, who is chairman of the Health Care Policy Committee of the state House of Representatives, said that he expects to be collecting medicines from nursing homes by late July or early August. He plans on speaking with an official from the Department of Health and Senior Services to go over protocol concerning proper forms and the inventory/labeling process. He then plans on approaching nursing homes to help facilitate the process of patients signing waivers to release drugs to the free health center.
“We’re going to have volunteers go around in a circuit to pick up from all the surrounding area nursing homes—from Eldon to Versailles to Laurie to Camdenton to Osage Beach,” Cooper said. “If that works well, we might even expand our range of how far we take medicines in from.”
Gloria Peth, executive director of the Osage Beach clinic, agreed that it would be helpful if the Department of Health and Senior Services would put together a policy packet of information that would explain how the Prescription Drug Repository Program is intended to work so that clinics can efficiently obtain the donated medication. Cooper added that it would be ideal, from the standpoint of the faith-based clinics, for the department to clarify that the pharmaceuticals are not owned by the federal government.
“We have to have it stipulated on a governmental level,” Peth said. “They’ve come up with this excellent idea, but we need a guideline.”
Messer credited the boldness and the courage of Cooper, who is known as one of the more mature Christian lawmakers in the state Capitol, for stepping out in faith in the area of medical missions.
“He has found an untapped niche that can be duplicated in any community of the state,” Messer said. “There’s no reason to allow all of this waste to occur when it can be recycled and put to good use in the name of Christ.
“There’s no reason why we should be flushing away product that could save people literally thousands of dollars a year in their medical care. There’s no reason for churches to be fearful of a medical ministry, because there are innumerable resources available.”
Cooper said it would be a blessing if Missourians could start to get their hands on even a portion of the prescription medicine in nursing homes that is currently being destroyed for no real purpose.
“Just recouping a tenth of that ($20-30 million) would be an enormous impact on the state budget and upon the citizens of Missouri,” he said.