Lake Co. pharmacy that gives free drugs to people in need loses funding
LAKE COUNTY, Ohio — A life-saving Lake County program will have to close at the end of September due to a lack of funding.
Joel Lucia is the president and founder of the non-profit organization Prescription Assistance Program, located in Concord Township.
“We are a licensed pharmacy. We started this in 2008. I was health commissioner for the Lake County Health District. All of these drugs that we have here come from a pharmacy that serves nursing homes. We also get it from Americare and Direct Relief,” Lucia said.
The pharmacy receives excess drugs and then ships them to people’s homes, at a cost of $10 for shipping, but the 84-year-old said if people can’t afford it, he delivers it simply for free.
“These people are on social security. The people we serve are not the super rich people. These are people who need help,” he said. “I deliver medicine, personally, to these homes and it’s not people taking advantage of the situation, it’s people who need help, they need medicine to stay alive and it breaks my heart. .”
Prescriptions are for cancer, diabetes, heart problems and much more. The only medicine that the pharmacy does not have is narcotics. It serves more than 700 people annually throughout Lake County and surrounding areas.
Rich Semtelli is a licensed pharmacist who has worked at the pharmacy since it opened. He said he started working there because he saw the dark side of pharmaceuticals when customers couldn’t afford the prescriptions they needed.
“It’s the saddest thing when you get somebody on Social Security, on a fixed income, and you tell them their prescription is going to be $190 and they look at you and say, ‘I don’t can’t do that. I do not have that.’
But if Lucia cannot obtain funding, the doors of the association will close at the end of September and the drugs will have to be destroyed.
“We just lost our funding,” he said.
The agency that promised the $60,000 every year for the next three years told Lucia she couldn’t afford it anymore.
Lucia says he’s exhausted his options.
“We’ve tried going back to the Lake County Health District where we started, we’ve tried the Board of County Commissioners, we’ve tried Dan Troy, our rep, and we just can’t get funding,” Lucia said.
It’s a tough pill for him and his employees to swallow.
“People making the decisions about what they’re going to fund, we kind of come down to the bottom of the list there, and to me that’s very short-sighted,” Semtelli said. “There is no doubt in my mind that someone will die because of this.”
Lucia remains hopeful that someone, somewhere will help fund next year.
“For $60,000, we will provide $600,000 or $700,000 in medicine for the community,” he said. “There is no program, no program, that can match what we can do dollar for dollar, so hopefully someone will come in the next month and help fund us for at least a year. “
News 5 contacted the Lake County Health District for comment, but did not hear back.