NORTH CAROLINA - Valentine's Day is Saturday, and as always, chocolates, flowers and cards can make for great gifts. But for some, prescription drugs would be the best gift to help keep their health in check.
"We wanted to try something different,” Sheila Kidwell, the Director of Foundations and Communications with NC MedAssist, said. “Give the gift of love and the gift of life."
NC MedAssist is a non-profit organization that provides pharmaceutical medications absolutely free. Kidwell said shipping is also free and patients do not pay co-pays.
"These are also medication items that will keep people out of the hospitals,” Kidwell said. “More than three quarters of our patients are on medication for chronic illness, so diabetes, heart disease and asthma."
To help give that gift, the organization is raising money with a Valentine’s Day Sponsor-a-Patient campaign. Money raised will go towards the organization’s Free Pharmacy Program.
The need is greater now as MedAssist has helped more than 15,000 people since July of 2020, according to Kidwell.
"With the pandemic, we have seen such an increased need, but people don't know that we're here,” Kidwell said.
The drive is happening online. The organization says a $200 donation can help patients get free pharmaceuticals for a year. That is less than the roughly $700 a year figure that Georgetown University reported people pay for out of pocket.
Smaller donations can also be made. Donations of $100 for six months and $50 for three months also be made. Donors can also donate any other amount.
"If someone hears this, even if someone can't sponsor a patient,” Kidwell said, “they might be in the situation where they might be able to utilize our services."
Kidwell said the organization relies heavily on donations.
"We will find funding, and we will make sure we get it,” she said. “We've never had to turn patients away, but we continue to look for funding."
Anyone can donate, but MedAssist's Free Pharmacy Program is only open to North Carolina residents. In order to qualify, residents must be uninsured and be at or below specific income levels for specific household sizes.
"This is a gift that's going to last for an entire year, and it's going to save someone's life,” Kidwell said.