LAKE COUNTY, Ohio—A Lake County program that saves lives will close in late September due to lack of funding.
Joel Lucia is the president and founder of the nonprofit Prescription Assistance Program in Concord Township.
“We are a recognized pharmacy. We started this in 2008. I was health commissioner for the Lake County Health District. All these drugs that we have here come from a pharmacy that serves nursing homes. We also get it from Americare and Direct Relief,” said Lucia.
The pharmacy receives the excess medication and then ships it to people’s homes at a cost of $10 for shipping, but the 84-year-old said if people can’t afford it, he’ll just deliver it for free.
“These people are on social security. The people we serve are not the super rich people. These are people who need help,” he says. “I personally give medicine to these homes and these are not people taking advantage of the situation, these are people who need help, they need the medicine to stay alive and it breaks my heart.”
The recipes are for cancer, diabetes, heart problems and much more. The only medicine that the pharmacy doesn’t have are narcotics. It serves more than 700 people in Lake County and surrounding areas each year.
Rich Semtelli is a licensed pharmacist who has worked at the pharmacy since it opened. He said he started working there because he saw the dark side of medicines when customers couldn’t afford the prescriptions they needed.
“That’s the saddest thing when you get someone on Social Security, on a steady income, and you say their prescription will be $190 and they just stare at you and say, ‘I can’t do that. I do not have that.'”
But if Lucia cannot get financing, the doors of the organization will close at the end of September and the medication will have to be destroyed.
“We just lost our funding,” he said.
The agency that had promised $60,000 each year for the next three years told Lucia it could no longer afford it.
Lucia said he has exhausted his options.
“We tried to go back to the Lake County Health District where we started. We tried the Board of County Commissioners, we tried Dan Troy, our representative, and we just can’t get funding,” Lucia said.
It’s a hard pill to swallow for him and his associates.
“The people who make the decisions about what they’re going to fund, we’re kind of getting to the bottom of the list there, and for me it’s very short-sighted,” said Semtelli. “I have no doubt that anyone will die from this.”
Lucia holds the hope that someone, somewhere, will help fund the next year.
“For $60,000, we will provide $600,000 or $700,000 for community medicine,” he said. “There’s no program, no program, that can match what we can do dollar for dollar, so I’m hoping someone will come in a month to help fund us for at least a year.”
News 5 has contacted the Lake County Health District for comment, but has not heard anything yet.