One of the first steps in your work is to involve a community collaborative, representing the key stakeholders in medication access. While not a complete list, the following leaders, agencies, and businesses are typical suspects in the creation of your community charity pharmacy. You might consider starting a small group of passionate leaders, at first. But over time, expand your community charity pharmacy leadership to have engaged the following for assistance, leadership, administrative help, facility space, donations, and staffing:
Health System/Hospital Leadership– Aside from the patients themselves, hospitals have the most to gain in seeing the launch of a community charity pharmacy. Inpatient care and Emergency Department services to treat otherwise avoidable conditions among the uninsured cost billions of dollars annually for hospitals. This uncompensated care will be greatly impacted by your community charity pharmacy. Work with your hospital leadership to identify resources and funding. They are often the most willing to help.
Medical Societies– Physicians care about their patients. They get frustrated that patients, particularly the uninsured, may decline in health specifically because the medication needed is unaffordable. Medical Societies offer the administrative organization access to the heart (and wallet) of the physician community. Work early and directly with the medical societies and local physicians. They will champion your work with you.
Boards of Pharmacy– It would be a mistake to assume that the Board of Pharmacy is simply the rule making and rule enforcing structure in a state’s pharmacy access system. Rather, the board of pharmacy is composed of smart pharmacist leaders, who care about the uninsured and care about the transformation of the community to serve better health outcomes. Engage the Board of Pharmacy about design questions, but also ask for their expertise as you build your work. They will help you do it efficiently, and correctly.
Public Health– The local health officer is responsible to improve the health of the community. They and their staff can assist you in finding funding, the best facilities, and other resources to serve your work.
Free Clinics– Unless your community is rather small, there is probably at least one free clinic in the area. If there are more than one, they often meet to discuss issues such as funding, operational design, patient care, and other topics. Be sure to engage with the free clinic community to complement their strategies for community health, to align operational systems, and to work together to achieve overall health improvement.
FQHCs– Not unlike the free clinics, federally subsidized clinics (called Federally Qualified Health Centers) exist in almost every community. Be sure to work with them to align operational design and to complement existing services.
Schools of Pharmacy– A ready source of research support and volunteer students exist at local schools of pharmacy. Be sure to work with the leadership of the schools to maximize your integration with their work.
Faith Community– Often, churches, temples, mosques, and synagogues have operational features that support the healthcare of the poor, and which provide funding for good ideas. Often, the faith community in an area has a collaborative structure or ecumenical council that meet to consider new ideas and resources.
Government Leadership– your local mayor’s office can be a great help in starting a community charity pharmacy. The staff at the mayor’s office has the networking connections and relationships to identify answers to key questions.
There are a number of partners in a given city or community ready to help you achieve your vision of a community charity pharmacy. When it is time to educate these and work to launch an operation, start by building relationship and sharing vision. Often partners will want to know you, as well and know your vision. Some other partnership opportunities not listed above include: parish nursing programs, disease specific coalitions, transplant coalitions, for-profit healthcare providers, health coalitions, engaged community leaders, and the chamber of commerce.