Interfaith Health Center in Bellingham opens new pharmacy

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDOctober 17, 2013 

BELLINGHAM - Interfaith Community Health Center has opened a new pharmacy at its Unity Street location, allowing patients to fill their prescriptions without having to go elsewhere.

"For a lot of our patients, transportation is a challenge and so building in an extra trip in the day to get to a pharmacy that would fill the medication might take up to an extra hour or add an extra expense," explained Gib Clarke, Interfaith's director of planning and development.

There are other benefits to Interfaith's first pharmacy, which will offer medication on a sliding-fee scale based on ability to pay.

"It's more affordable for our patients," Clarke said.

Having pharmacy and medical care providers on the same staff also helps with care coordination, especially when it comes to chronic conditions such as diabetes and mental health issues, according to Clarke.

Interfaith is a federally qualified health center. That federal designation requires pharmaceutical companies to give Interfaith the lowest price on a given medication; Interfaith in turn must pass the savings on to uninsured patients.

But Interfaith is allowed to charge market rates to patients who have insurance. That margin could allow Interfaith to generate an estimated $150,000 a year in profit - money that would be used to help provide medical and mental health care for the uninsured, Clarke said of another benefit to Interfaith having its own pharmacy.

The pharmacy at 218 Unity St., which opened Tuesday, Oct. 15, is one piece of an expansion project for Interfaith Community Health Center. Interfaith also completed the expansion of its health center at 220 Unity St. earlier this year.

The projects cost an estimated $3.15 million.

Money came primarily from a $1.07 million federal grant and a local fundraising campaign.

Interfaith Community Health Center has served 25 percent more patients - 2,700 people - since 2008. Eighty percent of them had no medical insurance.

Reach Kie Relyea at kie.relyea@bellinghamherald.com or 360-715-2234.

Reach KIE RELYEA at kie.relyea@bellinghamherald.com or call 715-2234.

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