Local nonprofit pharmacy keeps going despite COVID-19 barriers

Updated: Apr. 9, 2020 at 2:29 PM CDT
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BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - Volunteers filling the gap in health care services is the mission behind the St. Vincent de Paul Community Pharmacy. Their job of providing free prescription medication to those in need is even more critical with the COVID-19 pandemic front and center.

“It’s roughly 3,500 prescriptions we’ve filled in the last couple of weeks to get out to our clients, and we had another process where we mailed all of those medications to their home,” said Sam Burke, pharmacy executive director.

Medications are sent by mail, and over-the-phone consultations go out to more than 400 clients all over South Mississippi.

You’ve heard of the little engine that could. Well this could be the little nonprofit pharmacy that can.

“We’re a very small paid staff. The bulk of that work is done by our volunteers, who don’t have to come,” Burke added. “Many had to make their own decisions about their health, but we’ve had plenty of folks that were willing to say, ‘hey, I’m healthy, I’d like to come as long as you need me.’”

One of those volunteers is veteran local pharmacist Larry Calvert.

"We've had a lot of volunteers that have worked really hard on this, and they deserve a lot of credit," Calvert said.

Now the challenge is keeping that supply line going. Burke said one of those major supply lines has been cut due to COVID-19, and that is the medicine they get from nursing homes.

"We do get a supply of our medicine from a nursing home program, unused meds from nursing homes that we can go get and redistribute, but right now clearly, no one's going to nursing homes for everybody's safety," he said. "We'll do everything we can, and we'll continue to serve them the best we can."

The two pharmacies, one in Biloxi and the other in Hattiesburg, are what’s known as limited closed-door charity pharmacies, meaning they have no controlled substances in their inventory.

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