For the past quarter-century, the non-profit organization People Helping People has been providing prescription medications for people in Carroll County. “People in this area who can’t afford medications are helped through donations by the community, grants and fundraisers,” Kathy McCormick, a People Helping People board member said. “It is a pretty straightforward need that the organization addresses. When I first got involved, they had already been around for fifteen years. I loved what they were doing helping people in the community purchase life-saving medications. The fact that the organization has been meeting this need now for twenty-five years is amazing.”
McCormick said it takes generous donations by individuals and groups every year to keep meeting this ongoing need.
Susan Hopkins, a member of the board of PHP who has been involved since the inception of the group, recalls they got started with the help of the Carroll County Resource Council under the leadership of Madeleine Jackson, who was the head of the Department of Human Services in Carroll County.
“She was the queen of getting good things accomplished here,” Hopkins said. “Several non-profits sprang out of the Carroll County Resource Council. The Resource Council zoomed in on the model of People Helping People being done by St Mary’s in Rogers at the time. We modeled it after them. That organization no longer exists, but we are now in the 25th year.”
Hopkins said pharmacies in Carroll County have been tremendous partners in the program. Early on the group met with county pharmacists, most who are now retired. The pharmacists made a commitment to work with the group, and successor pharmacists have continued the generosity.
“Most of the pharmacies give us the medicine at their cost,” Hopkins said. “So that makes the dollars go a lot farther. The pharmacists are so key to this. They will research the medications, and call to see if any of the medicine is available as samples from doctors.”
In 2015, People Helping People helped fill 818 prescriptions and helped 269 people at a cost of $32,000.
The need is even greater today than 25 years ago because of the cost of medicines has gone up so much. The U.S. doesn’t restrict profiteering by drug manufacturers. According to www.opensecrets.org, pharmaceutical companies have been among large campaign contributors to Congress for years.
Most recently there has been a scandal about the cost of EpiPens, which inject epinephrine that can save the lives of people after an allergic reaction. The cost of an EpiPen has gone up from $57 in 2007 to $500 today.
“A physician I was talking to the other day said it only costs $1 to make an EpiPen,” Hopkins said. “There are other drugs that have skyrocketed in price, as well. Everybody is just walking the fine line hoping their medication isn’t the one that gets the price hike.”
Although the private option Medicaid expansion, now renamed Arkansas Works, has helped many people obtain health insurance, Hopkins said Medicaid will only pay for a certain number of medications per month.
“And some people can’t even do their co-pays,” she said. “We pay some people’s $3 co-pay and it makes a difference for them being able to get their medications.”
While some of those needing help are elderly, all ages of people are helped. Many younger people who have families and are working need help. People Helping People gives co-pay assistance to employees of some of the larger businesses in the county.
Sometimes what they do is help with a gap. People may be applying for disability, but don’t yet have it. Often, when children first move to the state, it is a few months before they can get new Medicaid coverage. Some children have diabetes, seizures or other serious health problems, so having consistent medication is vital.
They also help people with prescriptions until they can get their medication free through the ECHO Clinic.
Hopkins said the Office of Human Concern in Roger is their “mothership. “They are the 501(c)(3) that we are under. All of the money that we get for People Helping People is accounted for by the Office of Human Concern, which does the bookkeeping. They write the checks to the pharmacies every month. They do our brochures and any paperwork we need done like our annual fundraising letter.
“When dealing with all the kind of money, you must have oversight. And Mercy Hospital Berryville donates their social worker’s time, which really helps.”
It is difficult to know how many people have been helped over the last 25 years. About 300 people were helped in 2015.
Hopkins said the Eureka Springs Hospital Guild has been very supportive of the program. And the Holiday Island Presbyterian Church will hold a spaghetti dinner from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 12 at the Holiday Island Clubhouse, with proceeds shared between People Helping People and Grandma’s House.
For more information on contributing to People Helping People, Hopkins can be reached at (479) 253-9381.