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Upstate Pharmacy's Medications for Hope program to 19 counties

Starting Sept. 12, Upstate Medical University’s Medications for Hope, formerly called Dispensary of Hope, will be open to all 19 counties served by Upstate University Hospital.

The program is a national non-profit drug distributor that takes billions of doses of excess drugs that would have otherwise been destroyed and disseminates them to nonprofit pharmacies and clinics for patients who are uninsured and indigent.

Upstate’s Outpatient Pharmacy at Community Hospital, located at 5000 West Seneca Turnpike, became a dispensary location in July. When the program launched, it was limited to residents in Onondaga County.

Eric Balotin, Upstate’s director of Retail/Specialty Pharmacy Services said the program is off to a good start and has helped qualified patients get the medicine they need.

“We are trying to make everybody aware of the program,” he said. “The people who don’t have insurance tend are less connected to the system, so we are trying to reach them.”

Balotin said he is reaching out to local agencies and hospitals to spread the word, including the Mary Rose Clinic in Oneida and the Rahma Health Clinic in Syracuse, both of which provide care for the uninsured, and HouseCalls for the Homeless program through the Upstate Foundation. Participants do not need to be patients at Upstate to use the service.

“We really want to help,” he said.

Though there is only one dispensary location, the pharmacy can ship medicine free of cost to any qualified patients living anywhere within the 19 counties that Upstate University Hospital's services.

Available medications include those to treat high blood pressure, high cholesterol, stomach ulcers, mental health, diabetes and others. Most notably this program includes insulin, which constantly makes headlines for its high cost, up to $300 per vial.

Eligibility to participate in the Upstate’s medication access program is based on the annual published Federal Poverty rates. Applicants must be at or below 300 percent of Federal Poverty Guideline and have no prescription insurance. Balotin said this threshold for someone who is single would be an income level of $40,770 while a family of four could have an income level of $83,250. 

For more information, call (315) 464-DRUG (3784), and select option 3.

“The pharmacy is encouraging patients and providers to contact us with any questions about this program and to ask about other assistance programs which might be available to support their out-of-pocket cost,” he said.

Meaghan Murphy, left, Upstate’s ambulatory care pharmacy coordinator, and Eric Balotin, Upstate’s director of retail/specialty pharmacy services, are leading Upstate's medication access program, Medications for Hope.