In 1992, a task force of the Durham County Hospital Corporation conducted a needs assessment and feasibility study for a pharmaceutical assistance program for senior adults. They concluded that two public health issues needed to be addressed:
- financial access to medications for seniors with limited incomes
- and polypharmacy – the use of multiple, sometimes unnecessary medications.
Senior PharmAssist was created to address those needs in Durham and began serving participants in June 1994 as a program of the Coordinating Council for Senior Citizens. Four years later, our agency amicably separated from the Council to become an independent organization. In our first full year of service, we assisted 530 individuals. In FY 2014, we project we will help more than 1,700, including some of our most vulnerable neighbors.
From day one, Senior PharmAssist has combined medication access with medication therapy management to ensure that our participants are receiving the medicines they need and avoiding those they don't need. We also furnish individuals with tailored referral to other community resources that can save them much-needed funds and address other significant needs. In addition, we help Medicare beneficiaries in Durham County understand and make informed decisions about traditional Medicare (A and B), supplemental coverage, Medicare Advantage plans, employer-sponsored retiree coverage, and Medicare Part D.
Over the years, we have helped individuals obtain necessary medications in two primary ways:
- by providing direct financial assistance through a prescription card program to Durham seniors with limited means
- and by helping both our participants and others maximize alternative sources of medication assistance, including drug company programs.
In recent years, changes in Medicare have greatly altered the prescription assistance picture. While the advent of Medicare's drug benefit has made a significant difference for many older adults and younger people with disabilities, many others have struggled with these privately administered drug plans, due to the complexity of the benefit and the out-of-pocket expenses involved.
Senior PharmAssist has addressed these obstacles by expanding to help ANY Medicare beneficiary in Durham County – regardless of income or age – sort through the dozens of drug plans available each year to select the best option for that person, at no charge. In addition, we help those eligible apply for governmental subsidies, which can dramatically reduce annual out-of-pocket expenses. And finally, our own program continues to provide direct financial assistance for needed medications; that aid now extends to Durham residents 60 and older with limited incomes, including Medicare beneficiaries who need our help - despite governmental subsidies.
We provide those served with the assistance and information necessary to empower themselves to become wiser consumers and active participants in the maintenance of their own well-being. Our goal is to help senior adults remain vital and in their homes as long as possible.
Toward that end, Senior PharmAssist also advocates with others at the state and national level for systems policy change that will improve medication access and safety for older adults. These efforts have yielded tangible results, including the creation of state programs such as NCRx and ChecKmeds NC. You can read more about our commitment to collaboration and push for systemic solutions in the Advocacy section of this site.