The WellPower pharmacy team is pictured above, standing outside of the Recovery Center.
Photography by Evan Semón.
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Access to medication can play a critical role for successful treatment and recovery for many mental health conditions. When WellPower was established more than 30 years ago staff asked individuals in treatment what would help them the most in addition to therapy. Overwhelmingly, the top two answers were access to mental health medications and housing.
WellPower opened two pharmacies with one primary goal in mind – to ensure the people we serve do not leave without their medication due to cost. Filling prescriptions on-site in a familiar environment ensures the people we serve have an uninterrupted medication routine and helps decrease emergency department visits.
Today, uninsured individuals can receive generic psychiatric medications for as low as $3.00. Our pharmacy team and case managers also work with the people we serve who have other types of health insurance to receive the lowest cost prescriptions available.
Clinical pharmacy services improve overall well-being of the people we serve
In addition to making medication accessible, our pharmacists routinely provide specialized services that contribute to overall health and well-being.
Many of the people we serve have not routinely been seen by a primary care provider and are not up to date on vaccinations. Our pharmacies provide all vaccines, and this service also allows our team to answer further questions regarding medication and healthcare in general.
A man came to our pharmacy for his second shingles vaccine. After administration, he was asked if he had any other questions. Hesitant at first, he said his foot had been swollen for two months and was painful – he did not have a primary care provider and was avoiding the ER because of his anxiety. One of our pharmacists was able to get a provider from the primary care clinic in the building to look at the foot and knew it was a bacterial skin infection. The man was prescribed antibiotics, and our pharmacy was able to fill the medication right there.
Diabetic Education Services
Diabetes and metabolic syndrome are often side effects of antipsychotic medications. They are also common byproducts of lack of healthy food and poor living conditions resulting from a person’s low income. Our pharmacy team includes a certified diabetic educator whose focus is people living with severe and persistent mental illness. This pharmacist provides a hands-on learning experience for the people we serve while taking time to build trust, a critical component of a successful diabetic education program.
A 59-year-old woman lives with uncontrolled schizoaffective disorder and type 2 diabetes. Our pharmacy worked to get her on continuous glucose monitoring – she comes in every week to share her data with a team member, and we provide diabetic education. We were able to get her hemoglobin down from 9.3% to 6.7%. This was a good indicator that her treatment plan for diabetes was successful – not an easy thing to achieve.
Medication Adherence Programs
Our pharmacy team works diligently to help people stay consistent with their medications. If a medication is not picked up after two weeks, an email is sent to the case manager. Each time a new medication is picked up, the person we serve is counseled on what to expect and then receives a follow-up call a week later. Our pharmacy team also works with a program that alerts them when a prescription is due for a refill based on last pick up date and supply; they then call to confirm whether the refill is needed.
A person we serve has a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and has been on weekly monitored meds for years. When COVID forced people into quarantine, the person who had been organizing his meds for him was unable to do so, which created a lot of anxiety. He has the capability of filling his medication box but lacks confidence due to his TBI. The pharmacy team came up with the solution for him to come to the pharmacy each week and sit down with one of our team members as they watched him fill his medication box. Through this arrangement, the pharmacy team was able to make sure he filled his medication box correctly before leaving, and he gained a new sense of confidence around managing his own medications, with a little support.
Current Treatment and Treatment Options
We have a clinical pharmacy specialist who is residency trained and board certified in psychiatric pharmacy. This specialist works closely with the providers and people we serve to make sure the people we serve understand their current treatment regimen as well as other potential treatment options.
A man who lives with opioid use disorder was on Suboxone, a treatment for opioid dependence. He switched to an outside pharmacy and ended up with a different manufacturer of Suboxone which was not working for him. He was depressed and worried about relapsing and called our pharmacy with these concerns. The WellPower pharmacy team was able to figure out the manufacturer that had originally worked for him and assisted him with a new prescription for the cheapest Suboxone they could find. Currently he is coming to our pharmacy and his medical record clearly indicates the manufacturer that works best for him.
Our pharmacists are key contributors to the people we serve – from providing medications to specialty services and supporting people we serve with payment challenges. In addition, when COVID-19 hit, our pharmacy team ushered in solutions to get people their medication when everything went virtual. To-date, they have administered 6,984 COVID-19 vaccines and almost 9,500 COVID-19 tests.