Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the number of patients served by the Charitable Pharmacy and which government agency gave it $1.5 million to renovate the building where it is opening a second location.
The Charitable Pharmacy of Central Ohio will open a second location addressing low-income Franklin County residents’ food and pharmaceutical needs with its “Farmacy in the City” program.
The nonprofit’s new site, co-located with Community Development for All People, will feature a pharmacy and fresh food market under one roof. Here, vulnerable Franklin County residents can receive non-narcotic prescription medicine, pharmacy services and healthy food at no cost.
“Our patients may not have access to healthy food and other resources that you need to stay in those healthy habits to reduce your disease burden,” Charitable Pharmacy executive director Jennifer Seifert said. “We’re really excited now that when someone says, ‘I don’t know what to eat,’ we can bring some resources around them.”
Since 2010, CPCO has contributed $50 million in pharmacy services and prescription medicine, today serving over 7,000 Franklin County residents living at or below 200% of the federal poverty level.
More: Charitable Pharmacy sees more patients, more costs due to COVID-19
CPCO’s model is different from that of free clinics. Pharmacists spend time with patients to understand their medical history, explain the impact of their prescribed medicine and create an action plan for the future, development director Melanie Boyd said.
Despite this decade of positive impact, it’s clear that sometimes medicine isn’t the most pressing need when patients walk through the pharmacy’s doors. Basic needs such as food, shelter and clothing often take precedence.
After receiving a grant of nearly $100,000 from the Franklin County Board of Commissioners in 2019, CPCO began exploring communities where its support could have the most impact and identified South Linden as a place where it could help the neighborhood achieve better health outcomes.
The unfortunate truth is that one’s ZIP code often determines the quality of their health care.
“You go to the suburbs and look at how many pharmacies you have per capita — it’s a real different story in some other sections of the city,” Boyd said. “We know that coming in (to South Linden) as a charitable pharmacy to work with the existing pharmacies, we’re going to be able to meet more of that need.”
When the Rev. John Edgar, executive director of Community Development for All People, approached the pharmacy about sharing Eagle Market — a South Linden carryout shut down by the city in 2016 — CPCO jumped on the opportunity.
“Seventy percent of our patients are either screened positive for malnutrition or express food insecurity,” Boyd said. “That was one of the reasons this was just obvious, it was just such a clear fit.”
South Linden currently has no full-service grocery store, and this food scarcity has a measurable impact. Its residents have a life expectancy of just under 70 years, seven years less than the Franklin County average.
The “Farmacy in the City” hopes to improve this disparity by fulfilling food and health needs and emphasizing the idea of “food as medicine.”
A $149,444 grant from the Connections for Cardiovascular Health Foundation through AstraZeneca allows CPCO patients to be enrolled in a program with an extensive library of resources.
By collaborating with community partners to develop programs, the pharmacy hopes to fill gaps not yet identified and encourage patients with meal planning ideas, cooking classes, self-monitoring tools and incentives.
“We get to tailor the program to what our patients tell us,” Seifert said. “We’re asking patients what they’d really like to have. We think what’s going to rise to the top is going to be gift cards, likely to a grocery store.”
Slated to open spring 2021, the “Farmacy in the City” will be located at 1464 Cleveland Ave. with help from a $1.5 million investment from the city to renovate the building.
“Our hope is always going to be to expand to meet the need,” Boyd said. “We are very proud to be a local solution to a national crisis and we will continue to do everything in our power to meet that need.”
This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Central Ohio nonprofit’s ‘Farmacy in the City’ program in South Linden to combine diet, medicine