Medical clinic reaches milestone, ready for more

MONROE – After almost 13 years of service in the community, HealthQuest of Union County reached their $50 million mark of prescriptions given to people who cannot afford them otherwise.

“It was basically started with several community leaders, local pharmacists and Carolinas Medical Center in Union County that realized the need for a free clinic pharmacy in our county,” HealthQuest’s executive director, Heather Horne, said.
“There were so many people that would come to the hospital and get better, and then when they were discharged they couldn’t afford the medication and would end up back in the hospital.”

The group helped 1,547 clients fill 51,674 prescriptions for a total cost of $7.5 million in 2011.  The pharmacy clinic did not serve nearly that many people when it started in 1999, but as the word made it’s way around and with recent economic conditions, the organization has seen a large increase in patients.

“We didn’t start off with that much, but it’s taken about 12 years to reach that.  In the beginning we didn’t have the number of clients, but in the recent years we have had even more because of the economic crisis,” Horne said.

HealthQuest is no longer a volunteer-only clinic due to the increase in patients, but still largely depends on the time and work of volunteers.  Last year, more than 3,000 hours of volunteer work were logged.  They now have eight part-time employees, including one licensed pharmacist who works part time at the clinic.

Other licensed pharmacists also work at the clinic as volunteers along with paid and volunteer pharmacy technicians.

The pharmacy clinic, which only charges a $20 monthly administration fee, takes referrals from anyone who knows someone in need and will work with each patient to make sure they are on the correct medications.

“A lot of our clients don’t see a regular doctor on a regular basis, and they don’t really know what they are taking.  When they bring everything to us we check to see that they need to be on those medications,” Horne said.

To qualify the patient must be uninsured and have a low income.  Only six prescriptions will be filled per month, and if a patient needs more, the clinic will fill the most expensive or most important ones and help the patient find cheap alternatives for the other medications.

While the clinic receives most of their medications from Carolinas Medical Center in Union County, they also purchase more than $100,000 in generic medications and all of the testing supplies and syringes for their diabetic patients.

“Our board realized a couple of years ago that diabetes was on the rise.  We get a lot of newly diagnosed diabetics, and they don’t know how to manage it or inject themselves with insulin,” Horne said.  “We also offer educational programs for that person.”

In order to purchase all of the prescriptions for those in need, HealthQuest receives donations, writes grants and holds fundraisers. Their next fundraiser will be held at the Henry Hall Wilson House, 1301 E. Franklin St. in Monroe on Nov. 1.  It will be a wine and cheese event, and those who wish to attend can drop in anytime from 6:30 to 9 p.m.

HealthQuest is located at 415 E Franklin St. in Monroe, and while walk-in appointments are accepted, they encourage those interested in becoming patients of the clinic to make appointments by calling 704-226-2050.

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