Since 2013, Madison-area low-income clients with nowhere else to turn have been getting assistance with their medications at the only stand-alone, charitable pharmacy in the state of Wisconsin — the St. Vincent de Paul Charitable Pharmacy.
“I think it’s just wonderful to work here. What’s really nice is just being able to help people every day. Each day, we are humbled because we see folks that are dealing with a lot and how they still approach life with a level of grace, it inspires us to provide them with dignified care,” Yolanda Tolson-Eveans, the managing pharmacist at Charitable Pharmacy, tells Madison365. “I like to say that we try to provide care with care.”
The Charitable Pharmacy is located below the St. Vincent de Paul food pantry on Fish Hatchery Rd. in Madison where many Madisonians can go to get a helping hand to feed themselves and their families. It’s the only stand-alone charitable pharmacy in the state of Wisconsin.
The Charitable Pharmacy officially opened on April 1, 2013, after providing many years of pharmacy prescription support.
“So we used to have a relationship with Schaefer Drug where we would walk people down to Schaefer Drug and just basically pay for the medications that they needed,” Tolson-Eveans says. “But over time, the prescription costs rose and the needs increased, so we thought that maybe we can do this cheaper and better if we did it ourselves.”
Tolson-Eveans has been with the Charitable Pharmacy since the beginning and the organization’s focus is to provide low-cost drugs needed for acute conditions such as infections or chronic conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, or psychiatric illness.
“Charitable Pharmacy helps people who are at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level and uninsured,” Tolson-Eveans says. “We help people that are too old for Medicaid and too young for Medicare. Sometimes we’re helping people that are over 65 if they’re like refugees or immigrants that don’t qualify for Medicare.”
They have every type of medicine that people could need. The Charitable Pharmacy Patient Portal allows current pharmacy patients to request refills of their prescriptions.
“We have asthma inhalers, we have insulin. We have most of the chronic type of maintenance medication whether it’s for your blood pressure, diabetes, even mental health medications,” Tolson-Eveans says.
“We do COVID vaccinations. We were doing COVID testing. We also do flu vaccines,” she continues. “So there are quite a few vaccines we can do if you don’t have insurance. We can help folks with COVID vaccines.”
For local low-income clients who don’t have insurance or any other coverage option, the Charitable Pharmacy has been a giant blessing.
“We have people that are having to decide whether they pay for their light bill or pay for their medication,” Tolson-Eveans says. “Sometimes they have to make some tough choices, but thankfully, we were able to provide them with medication such as insulin and inhalers. In the beginning, when we opened up, a lot of our patients smoked so we had a lot of lung disease to help with. So we’re fortunate that we’re able to provide those medications to them, as well.”
Each month, staff pharmacists, technicians and volunteers fill about 400 prescriptions for uninsured patients using the St. Vincent de Paul Charitable Pharmacy, which accepts medicines that are unexpired, properly labeled and stored, and untampered with. You can donate medicine here.
“We are one of the drug repository sites for the state of Wisconsin. So people can donate unopened non-expired medications,” Tolson-Eveans says.
Tolson-Eveans says she would love to see what Charitable Pharmac does done on an even bigger scale.
CEO & Executive Director of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul — Madison and now leads the National Council of the U.S., Society of St. Vincent de Paul.
“Actually, that was one of the ideas of Ralph Middlecamp, our former CEO [and executive director of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul who now leads the National Council of the U.S. Society of St. Vincent de Paul],” Tolson-Eveans says. “His idea was for us to have about four hubs — Madison, Milwaukee, Appleton, Green Bay, something like that. And we could push out medications to the more rural areas and blanket the whole state through that system. So that’d be amazing.
“There is such a need throughout the state. We actually did a pilot with Marinette, Wisconsin, so they would send us orders, we would fill the prescriptions and we’d mail them to them,” she continues. “And then we would have volunteer pharmacists, locally, who would receive medications and dispense those to the patients in the local community. We could actually do virtual consultations with them via the computer. So if that pharmacist wasn’t available, we could actually counsel the patients from here to there.”
Tolson-Eveans adds that Charitable Pharmacy is also looking forward to forming more partnerships within the city of Madison.
“A lot of providers around town are seeming to know about us, too. We have a couple of clinics that we work with pretty consistently including Our Lady of Hope, and we also are starting to work with Aaron Perry’s and his organization [Perry Family Free Clinic], so we’re excited about that,” she says. “We’re working on expanding our reach and doing more outreach so we can reach more people.”
The St. Vincent de Paul Charitable Pharmacy is located in the lower level of the food pantry site, located at 2033 Fish Hatchery Rd. in Madison. For more information, call (608) 257-0919 or visit the website.