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SVDP pharmacy program expands to northshore

Ronald Rome is filling a growing need. As a licensed, retired pharmacist, he volunteers filling prescriptions at the recently opened St. Vincent de Paul satellite intake location on the northshore.
     “I am allowing people to get service on this side of the lake that they would have gotten on the other side of the lake, but they don’t have to travel,” Rome said.
Rome is a Vincentian from the St. Vincent de Paul Council at St. Peter Church in Covington. He has a doctor of pharmacy degree from Loyola University and has been a pharmacist for 50 years, 17 of them on the northshore.
    Rome has volunteered for several northshore agencies that help those in need and has noticed, a small, but increasing number of individuals requiring some sort of assistance.
    “I saw a lot of folks who lost insurance, and that was the impetus for many large pharmacies going to the $4 prescriptions so folks could get their maintenance medicine,” Rome said. “I found a lot of those folks, though, were indigent and rode their bikes (because they didn’t have a car) to get their medicines with $4 they didn’t have, so they had to decide if they were going to eat that day or get their medicines.”
Filling a growing need
    Since the satellite office of the St. Vincent de Paul pharmacy opened on the northshore, Rome estimates that he has filled more than 100 prescriptions.
     As people realize the service is available, “every month, it is growing a lit bit more,” he said.
     At the satellite office, Rome conducts intake interviews to determine if a person is eligible for the free prescription program, by appointment on Monday and Tuesday mornings. On Wednesdays, he picks up the prescriptions from the New Orleans St. Vincent de Paul pharmacy and returns to the northshore and calls clients for pick up when he dispenses the prescriptions and counsels individuals.
    Clients get a 30-day supply at a time and can call Rome for refills. No drugs are stored on site, he emphasized.
    “It’s worked pretty well that way,” Rome said.
    Because Rome is familiar with other organizations that help those in need, he is able to refer clients to other services – such as a place to stay, help with utility bills, food and clothing – that they may need.
    “I can triage people who call and aren’t eligible for the St. Vincent de Paul program and steer them to other programs for help,” he said.
A year in the making
    Rome said discussions about establishing a St. Vincent de Paul satellite location on the northshore began in the summer of 2012. It took some time to coordinate the necessary insurance and leases to get it started. Rome is pleased to have the ability to volunteer to help others, and he is trying to raise additional funds to advance the growth of the pharmacy.
    “I am retired and still have my pharmacy license, so I decided it would be a good way to help the indigent on the northshore,” Rome said.
    St. Vincent de Paul executive director Deacon Rudy Rayfield said he was pleased to help residents on the northshore since the need for “free prescription medication” goes beyond the limits of the city of New Orleans.
    “The satellite location is providing a much-needed service to residents on the northshore who may not have the means to come to our Gentilly pharmacy,” Deacon Rayfield said. “It’s been a long time coming.”
    The Society of St. Vincent de Paul was founded in France in 1833 by Blessed Frederic Ozanam to serve the poor. It now works to “end poverty through systemic change” in 145 countries.
    Among the local works of the St. Vincent de Paul Society is the pharmacy, a thrift store next to the Gentilly pharmacy, an Adult Learning Center at 2601 Canal Street and also the Ozanam Inn shelter for the homeless on Camp Street.
    The St. Vincent de Paul northshore satellite office can be reached at (985) 373-8426. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul Community pharmacy at 1995 Gentilly Blvd. in New Orleans can be reached at 940-5031. For details, visit
    Christine Bordelon can be reached at cbordelon@clarion

➤ Must be a northshore resident – any northshore parish. People of all faiths can be assisted.
➤ Must be financially impaired with an income that doesn’t overly exceed expenses; individual situations considered.
➤ Have to have original prescriptions written by their physicians; no copies are accepted; pharmacists don’t make phone calls to doctors or accept faxes.
➤ Need the ability to meet on Monday and Tuesday for intake interview, providing identification, proof of expenses and income and then pick up and sign for medicines on Wednesdays. There are no deliveries.
➤ St. Vincent de Paul Pharmacy in New Orleans and the intake office on the northshore don’t fill narcotic prescriptions (ADHD or Oxycontin), scheduled drugs  (categories of drugs that are addictive such as Xanax or valium), ovulation control medications or abortifacients.
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