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In exam room No. 9, a 54-year-old diabetic man from Madison, IL with dangerously high blood sugar waits to see a doctor. It’s been eight months since Zdzislaw’s glucometer broke and his diabetes is spiraling out of control. On this day his blood sugar registers over 500. On top of that, he is diagnosed with high cholesterol and high blood pressure. He’s just one of the dozens of uninsured patients getting treatment on a Tuesday afternoon at CommunityHealth, a free clinic AmeriCares supports in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood.
The doctor writes him eight prescriptions including one for Prevacid, which was donated by AmeriCares. Had it not been for the clinic’s pharmacy, which dispenses medicines to patients free of charge, those prescriptions might have gone unfilled. Zdzislaw has fared better than many of his neighbors in the region hard hit by the recession. He has found steady work as a truck driver, but unfortunately his job does not offer health benefits and he can’t afford to pay out-of-pocket for his medical care. He left the clinic with a grocery bag filled with a three month’s supply of medicines which could have easily cost $1,000 or more at the drugstore.
The clinic pharmacy fills 200 to 300 prescriptions for the uninsured daily thanks, in part, to AmeriCares donations of medicines and supplies.
CommunityHealth Associate Executive Director Laura Michalski said the deliveries from AmeriCares help ensure the shelves are stocked at the state’s largest volunteer-run medical facility. The clinic, which serves many unemployed residents struggling to make ends meet, saw a 33 percent increase in patient visits from 2008 to 2009.
“When prices go up and the demand increases, you look at your inventory and say, ‘What can we do without?'” Michalski said. “It’s just the simple things we take for granted, like going to Walgreens to buy pain relievers or throat lozenges. To our patients, these are luxuries.”
CommunityHealth is just one of the more than 200 clinics serving the uninsured and underinsured throughout the U.S. receiving medicines and supplies from AmeriCares Domestic Medical Assistance Program.