Non-profit pharmacy wants to expand its outreach

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - After a dozen years of getting prescription medications into the hands of people unable to afford them, a South Mississippi non-profit is looking to expand its outreach.

St. Vincent DePaul Pharmacy in Biloxi received a $50,000 donation from IP casino on Thursday. The pharmacy assists people who don't have health insurance or who are under-insured. Last year St. Vincent DePaul filled prescriptions for 1,400 people. The new executive director who says he'd like to see even more people get the help they desperately need.

It takes many hands to support St. Vincent DePaul. There are the people who donate money, the hospitals and doctors who provide free medication and the 75 volunteers who do everything from run the front desk to fill prescriptions.

Larry Calvert is a retired pharmacist and a volunteer. "With healthcare the way it is and it's gotten a lot worse in the last few years, there's people who just fall through the cracks," said Calvert. "Medication prices continue to go up all the time people simply can't afford their medication. "

Sam Burke became the pharmacy's executive director in January. He said 98 percent of all contributions go directly to helping people.

"We are that place for individuals who have chronic ailments and things of that nature that they can get that piece of mind knowing they'll be able to have the medications that they need," said Burke.

A mail-out program gives piece of mind to Hancock County residents who might have a hard time getting to Biloxi to pick up their medications. Now with the price of gas so high, St. Vincent DePaul worries even more people who can't afford their meds also can't afford to drive to the Biloxi pharmacy to go through the intake process.

"We want to take small steps but we want to make sure that we are making sure our services are reaching those that need us most," said Burke. "We have opened one satellite location in Bay St. Louis twice a month. We may look to do another satellite toward the East.  Our geographic territory is defined by the Catholic Diocese of Biloxi so that actually services all the way to Lamar County and Hattiesburg. So we want to make sure we're fulfilling our mission and serving all those that if they have a need, we're able to somehow fulfill that."

St. Vincent DePaul is hosting a golf tournament at the Grand Bear on April 19th as a fundraiser. Officials say more than $20,000 in prizes and gifts will be handed out. For more information call 228-248-4389.

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