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PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
September 27, 2005

Fred M. Jacobs, M.D., J.D.
Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
Gretchen Michael or Marilyn Riley
(609) 984-7160


 
DHSS Announces Program to Make Discount Prescription Drugs Available to Community Health Center Patients


 

ATLANTIC CITY – By the middle of next year, low-income and uninsured patients at New Jersey’s community health centers will have easy access to reduced-price prescription drugs, Health and Senior Services Commissioner Fred M. Jacobs, M.D., J.D. announced today.

          As part of a series of Minority and Multicultural Health Month events in September, the Commissioner announced a program to expand the discount drug program to all 67 health center sites.  The initiative fulfills a commitment Acting Governor Richard J. Codey made earlier this year to help health centers make discount drugs more widely available.           

          The announcement was made at AtlantiCare Health Services’ Mission Health Care in the Atlantic City Rescue Mission.  The center, one of five in the state to care for homeless people, has handled more than 15,000 patient visits since opening two years ago.

 “By expanding the discount drug program, we ensure that more patients who get high-quality care at our centers can get their prescriptions filled quickly and affordably,” Dr. Jacobs said.  “This means better health for patients and fewer costly hospital visits for health emergencies.”

At Mission Health Care, for example, the two most common patient diagnoses are high blood pressure and diabetes.  Both can be managed with regular health care and proper medications, avoiding complications that can require hospital care.  Asthma, HIV and heart disease are some of the other chronic health conditions that require prescription medicine.

“Many of these chronic conditions have a disproportionate impact on minority communities in our state.  Access to health care – including prescription drugs – will help reduce these disparities,” Dr. Jacobs said. 

Commissioner Jacobs announced today that the department is working with the Office of Pharmacy Affairs and the Pharmacy Services Support Center in the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration to provide free consulting services to New Jersey’s health centers as they develop business plans to implement pharmacy discount programs for their patients.  The goal is to enable all centers to begin operating discount programs during the current fiscal year, with at least three programs operating by December 2005.

Community health centers are among the agencies eligible for a federal discount on drugs under section 340B of the Public Health Service Act.  Five centers have already implemented discount programs – Mission Health Care (Atlantic City), the Jersey City Family Health Center (Jersey City), North Hudson Community Action Corporation Health Center (West New York), Community Health Care (Bridgeton), and CAMcare Health Corporation (Camden).

However, not all centers have the time, expertise and resources to take advantage of this federal benefit.  Setting up a pharmacy program is complex, requiring detailed analyses and development of comprehensive business plans, fee schedules and inventory monitoring.

On October 19, the department – in conjunction with federal officials and pharmacy consultants -- will hold a workshop for all community health center representatives, where centers will meet with their assigned consultants to begin this process.

Consultants will analyze each center’s patient mix and type of medications needed, review options for the best type of pharmacy program models, identify possible participating local pharmacies, and help design fee schedules for drugs.  Centers may choose to operate their own on-site pharmacy, contract with a retail pharmacy to operate on-site, or contract with a neighborhood pharmacy, among other options.

Community health centers offer a wide range of services for the entire family – from prenatal to geriatric care, in some cases including dental care and mental health services.  Centers currently handle more than a million patient visits a year. 

Community health centers serve the uninsured and underinsured, as well as patients with Medicaid, Medicare and private insurance.  Fees are based on ability to pay.  Some patients may be eligible to have their costs covered by the state’s Health Care Subsidy Fund.

For more information and to locate a community health center, please visit the department’s web site at:  www.state.nj.us/health/fhs/cphc.

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