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St. Vincent de Paul's Free Pharmacy Expanding Eligibility For Needy North Texans

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Writing a prescription for change.

A free-standing charitable pharmacy is expanding eligibility requirements to serve more families. It's one way the Society of St. Vincent de Paul hopes to impact a root cause of systemic poverty.

"They are calling us for rent or utilities or help with food, but we found out that they were foregoing medications," says Michael Pazzaglini, CEO, Society of St. Vincent de Paul of North Texas, explaining that clients will often rationalize the difficult decisions, saying 'well, I'll pay the rent and maybe take half my prescription, and now I'm in a situation where I'm becoming ill or sick and I can't work and now I just exacerbated the situation'."

So St. Vincent dePaul Pharmacy in Northeast Dallas hopes to heal families, one prescription at a time, providing many common medications for free.

"It's very important because she depends on this medicine for her life," says a client who said his name was Rafael. He was picking up insulin for his teenage daughter, a type 1 diabetic.

"A three months' supply of a diabetic pen would cost about $750 for a 3-month supply for insured patients," says pharmacist Carlos Irula. For families already living on the economic edge, that's a fortune. "I'm not sure what was available before," says Irula, "but I'm definitely glad we are here to be able to provide."

And now eligibility is expanding to help even more. Families earning at or below 300% of the federal poverty line can qualify for the free prescriptions.

"So a family of 3 could make $65,000 a year and still qualify for our service," says Irula, adding that the larger net will help a lot of working families. "That's why we are really excited. [It is ] definitely going to be a big year for us."

The Society of St. Vincent dePaul obtains the free medicines through pharmaceutical overruns, paying only the distribution costs. And demand right now is at an all-time high.

"We've served $3.4 million dollars' worth [ of prescriptions ] in the past 12 months," says Pazzaglini, and they're expecting that demand for assistance to continue. "Many times, people are on the edge. They're not quite in poverty.

But they're on the edge. And it's these one or two incidents that lead them into a cycle of debt or [they] fall into a situation where they have no savings and they're asking us for help. By providing the medication, we have effectively given them that ability to stay out of poverty and continue on the road to financial stability."

The more than century old charity is also fund raising through grants and private donations to add to their list of available medications and expand the program.

"We are asking people to join with us to grow this effort," says Pazzaglini. "There are approximately 4.1 million people who would be eligible for our program when we roll out beyond Dallas/Ft. Worth."

"It's a good place," says Rafael, eyes smiling above his mask. "God bless this place."


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