The Beacon Charitable Pharmacy in Canton is one of three nonprofit pharmacies in Ohio.
CANTON Jim McInnes has taken a prescription antibiotic since a work injury in 2009 led to surgery and a re-occurring infection.
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) returned whenever he stopped taking the drug. McInnes said his prescription originally cost $10 a month but increased to an unattainable $70 a month while he was recovering.
"So, I quit taking it," McInnes said.
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His physician connected him to the Beacon Charitable Pharmacy in Canton — one of three nonprofit pharmacies in Ohio. McInnes said he has no prescription coverage through Medicare and couldn't afford his medication without the agency.
He now pays $2 a month, the recommended donation for one medication.
"I know what people can go through when they can't get stuff and they can't afford it," he said. "I'll tell you, that's devastating."
Executive Director Carol Risaliti said the pharmacy is an essential business and will remain open during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I'm very concerned that there could be people, maybe in the past they never had a need for our services, but now, suddenly, because they don't have a paycheck or maybe their insurance is ending, they may need our help, at least temporarily," she said.
The pharmacy is accessible through the McKinley Avenue SW entrance of the Ken Weber Community Campus at Goodwill, 408 Ninth St. SW. It does not dispense federally controlled substances, such as narcotics.
Risaliti said the Beacon Charitable Pharmacy typically fills more than 2,000 prescriptions and serves more than 300 people from Stark and Carroll counties each month. In addition to medication, pharmacy staff provide professional services.
"They really help the person to know how to take their medication so it's most effective," Risaliti said. "They're looking for signs or symptoms of drugs that don't mix well together, and they're getting a lot of questions answered."
To qualify for pharmacy services, a person must be uninsured or underinsured and have an income at or below 250% of the federal poverty level. That makes a single person earning as much as $31,900 or a family of two earning as much as $43,100 eligible.
A full list of income limits by household size is available at beaconpharmacy.org.
Uninsured clients are asked to donate $2 for one medication, $4 for two and $5 for three or more prescriptions. Those who are underinsured are asked to pay $5 per medication up to a maximum of $25.
The Beacon Charitable Pharmacy has received more than $22 million in donated medications and collaborated to purchase more than $500,000 in medication throughout the past 14 years, according to its website.
"There's a variety of ways we help," Risaliti said. "Primarily, it's out of our pharmacy."
The pharmacy has limited control over the type of medication it receives but is able to fill 93% to 97% of prescriptions, she said. Other options include enrolling clients in pharmaceutical companies' assistance programs or locating places to purchase medication inexpensively.
Rhonda Ross has used the pharmacy since she lost medical insurance last July. She pays $5 a month for several medications and receives "really, really expensive" insulin through a pharmaceutical company for free.
"If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be able to take my insulin," she said.
Ross said she's considered various insurance options, but all have been too costly.
Richard Cox only recently started visiting the pharmacy for eight prescriptions. He is insured and employed — although his hours were reduced from full time to less than part time because of COVID-19 — and can't afford out-of-pocket prescription costs.
"I don't make enough money to cover my medication, and they helped me out tremendously," Cox said.
At the Beacon Charitable Pharmacy, he pays $5 to $25 for medications that would otherwise cost him about $600 a month.
"It's a good program," he said. "Wish I would've known about it sooner."
Cox and other clients said prescription pickup is fast and involves little interaction with other people. In response to the recent pandemic, the pharmacy has increased cleaning of the facility and equipment.
Its hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Pharmacy staff can be reached at 330-445-1087 for more information.
Reach Kelly at 330-580-8323 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @kbyerREP