Program helps pay for meds

Published 8:23 pm Saturday, November 7, 2009

About 30 Western Tidewater residents got help with paying for their prescriptions Friday.

The “Help is Here Express” bus tour, part of the Partnership for Prescription Assistance, stopped at the Franklin Department of Social Services for about three hours to provide desperately needed help and encouragement to the area, particularly in light of the recently announced closing of International Paper’s Franklin facility.

“Everywhere we go, people need help paying for their prescription drugs,” said Greg Lopes, the PPA representative on the bus that came to Franklin. “It’s always heartwarming to see people get help.”

The Partnership for Prescription Assistance is a nationwide program that helps connect people who need help paying for their prescription medications with programs provided by drug companies such as Pfizer and Merck. The program is “designed for people without health insurance,” Lopes said, whether those people are unemployed or do not have insurance through their employer.

Lopes said the bus tour already was planning a stop in Hampton Roads, but homed in on Franklin after the announcement of the paper mill’s impending closure.

People who received help on Friday were talking about the plant closing while waiting their turn in line, Lopes said, which really made the importance of the stop hit home.

“This really felt good today,” Lopes said. “It was a great stop.”

People who come to the bus tour stops wait their turn on the bus — a refurbished concert tour bus painted bright orange. They are asked to bring the names of all their medications, statement of income and residence, and any insurance cards.

Lopes then assists the patients with entering all their information into a database on one of several laptops. The patients automatically find out which programs they may be eligible for and receive applications that day, Lopes said. If they are accepted into the programs, they then can receive medication through the mail “hopefully for free or nearly free,” Lopes said.

Patients who qualify for help from the program have access to more than 2,500 brand-name and generic prescription medicines.

“We’re very happy to hear that the ‘Help is Here Express’ is coming to Franklin,” said Helen Reavis, director of the Franklin Department of Social Services. “This assistance is desperately needed as many people in our community will soon lose their jobs with the closure of the plant.”

Even after the bus tour has moved on, people can call 888-4-PPA-NOW or visit www.pparx.org to apply for help. The process takes only about 15 minutes.