When one Wadesboro woman learned about a free medicine giveaway, she made plans to be there to try and find products she’s had a hard time affording since she lost her job.
Carolinas HealthCare System partnered with NC MedAssist to hold the over-the-counter medicine giveaway on May 4, giving about $100 worth to each participant. Volunteers also helped teach hands-only adult CPR and gave participants a certificate of completion.
“For me, it meant a lot because I got laid off of my job and lost insurance,” Mae Boggan said. “A lot of things I need I can’t afford since my unemployment ran out. This was very helpful money-wise.”
Boggan picked up nasal spray, cough syrup, sterilizer pads and reading glasses. Normally, she spends about $75 each month on those kinds of products — allergies at this time of the year increase her spending — so the giveaway saved her from more than a month’s worth of over-the-counter pharmaceutical spending.
She also took the CPR lesson. It was her first time doing any CPR training.
“I think it’s a good event for people that can’t afford medication,” Boggan said. “It was very nice and very helpful.” She said the CHS staff were helpful as she registered and they helped find her medical products, adding that she hopes the event is held again.
When volunteers from Carolinas HealthCare set up shop, filling tables with piles of supplies to be given away, Boggan was one of hundreds to benefit. Like other participants, she showed up at the Lockhart-Taylor Center and filled out a form with her requests from a list of options. Volunteers then used the forms as a shopping list, filling plastic bags with the selected products before taking it back to the client.
Cough, cold, flu and allergy medication, children’s medicines, pain relief options, skin treatments, digestive aids, several vitamins, laxatives and hemorrhoid treatment, family planning supplies such as condoms and ovulation tests, sleep aids and women’s health medicine were all available, as were urinary pain medicine, Poise and Playtex products, bandages and other options.
Ethel Taylor, also a Wadesboro resident, heard about the giveaway through a friend and made sure she showed up.
Taylor suffers from allergies and upset stomach, and typically spends about $75 to $100 each month on over-the-counter medicine.
For Taylor, the availability of $100 worth of free allergy and sinus medication, a Therma-wrap for her arthritis and Vitamin B ensured her extra relief.
“I think it’s a great thing for the seniors and people that can’t afford over-the-counter medicine,” Taylor said. “From the outcome and people that showed up, a lot of people need it.”
Taylor said she was glad she was able to participate, and hoped that the healthcare company holds the event again in Anson.
Sharon Washam, a manager with corporate community benefits for Carolinas HealthCare System, organized the event along with a team of people from Anson and Stanly counties.
“All of the teammates here recognize that they work for a great company that allows us to do what we do,” Washam said. “Everybody is thrilled to be here.”
The event ran for five hours, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. that day. Just before noon, about 350 customers had been served, and the company had a goal of 1,000. According to Susanna Trotter, a corporate communications associate for Carolinas HealthCare, the company had $100,000 worth of medication ready to give away, and planned for 1,000 people to each receive eight items. A total of 634 people were served, and of that, 59 were uninsured.
While the event was geared towards low-income and uninsured clients, no identification or other documentation was required to participate, and anyone was welcome.
“We’re targeting the uninsured, the under-served,” Washam said. “Those are people having to choose between paying rent and buying medicine, or buying groceries or buying medicine.”
This was the first time that Carolinas HealthCare has held an event of this type in Anson County, though one was held in Cleveland County the week before. About 650 people were served during that event in Shelby. One was also held in Union County. Washam said that the company has budgeted for a couple of more events in the region, but hasn’t made solid plans or decided the location of them yet.
Carolinas HealthCare nurses and pharmacists, pharmacy students from Wingate University and clinical assistants from Central Piedmont Community College were all on hand to help, with a total of about 120 volunteers participating.
“CHS has a mission to improve the health of the people in the community we serve,” Washam said.
Anson is one of the more rural counties the company serves. It is also one of the poorest counties in the state. According to Carolinas HealthCare, more than 11,700 adults in Anson and Union counties live below the federal poverty level and do not qualify for insurance.
“We advertised hoping to attract those people in the area having to make those tough choices every day,” Washam said. “It’s a luxury to have options in your medicine cabinet if your child has a fever in the middle of the night. Nine times out of 10, those people will have to go to the ER because they don’t have a fever reducer in their medicine cabinet.”
Even those who may be able to afford the product may not have the transportation to get to the store, as many do not own cars and there is a shortage of public transportation, Washam said. There is no 24-hour pharmacy in Anson.
Any leftover medical products were donated to HealthQuest, a nonprofit in Anson County.
Reach reporter Imari Scarbrough at 704-994-5471 and follow her on Twitter @ImariScarbrough.