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WARREN — Franklin Pharmacy on Youngstown Road SE was handpicked by Ernie Boyd, executive director of the Ohio Pharmacists Association, for the Ohio Provider Status Pilot Program.

The program gives pharmacists more latitude to provide clinical services to Medicaid patients between doctor visits through collaborative practices agreements with physicians, nurses, practitioners or physician assistants. The focus is on smoking cessation, opioid management, diabetic care and asthma issues.

“For example, if a patient has been given a new diabetic monitor and isn’t sure how to use it properly, they can come into Franklin Pharmacy and receive the help they need rather than waiting for an appointment with their general practitioner,” pharmacist Danielle Hubbard said.

Hubbard has been a Franklin staff member since 1996 and was trained by pharmacy owner George Franklin after graduating pharmacy school in 1995.

“Just because you’re coming in for your prescription for Suboxone patches doesn’t mean you need to feel shame about not knowing how to use them or what you may experience using them,” she said. “You can come in and have a private consultation at our pharmacy.

“Recently, I had a patient that was having the hardest time breathing. After speaking with them, it turned out that they were using their inhaler improperly,” she said. “A few weeks later when they came in for a refill, the patient was happy to be breathing much better and not quite as tired as they were when we first saw them.”

The Ohio Provider Status Program compensates pharmacists for extra time spent with people filling prescriptions who have questions or concerns with how their medications might react with others they are taking.

“A pharmacist may catch a script coming in to be filled that might have a negative reaction to a medication that their customer has been on for 15 years or more that has been overlooked. It happens,” Hubbard said, “moreso when people are changing doctors or new aliments begin to take place.”

“This program isn’t meant to have pharmacists take the place of your regular doctor, but more like an interim visit between,” Boyd said. “Fifty percent of patients ending up in the ER are due to people not taking their medications properly, skipping on meds to save money. Pharmacies can catch this.

“We need to activate and army of pharmacists to help. Any pharmacy can participate in this program now. Pharmacists feel that their six years of education are finally being put to use and it’s not only paying off, but patients are being helped and thankful for it,” Boyd said.

The hiccup in the program, Boyd said is the need to have a collaborative practice agreement in place with patients’ doctors.

“I do not agree with having the CPA in place first before we can help a patient,” he said. “This must be a misreading internally by Medicaid. There seems to be a barrier within the Medicaid administration rules and if we can’t change that, OPA may pursue a legislative solution.”

In August 2020, the Ohio Pharmacist Association and CareSource enacted the pilot program with two pharmacies in Dayton. The program was successful enough to be expanded to 19 pharmacies across the state, including Franklin Pharmacy in Warren, to see if implementing this program would benefit local communities and if it should be used in all Ohio pharmacies.

The program began with passage of a bill in 2020 sponsored by state Sen. Matt Dolan, R-Chagrin Falls, who stated, “Due to the opioid crisis, increased chronic disease and growing behavioral health demands in Ohio, pharmacists can be recognized as providers in Ohio law.”

Boyd said of the legislation, “This opens the door in both private and Medicaid programs for advance services to be reimbursed. SB (Senate Bill) 265 can also be a lead-in to more job placement within pharmacies where college students may see this as an incentive to choose to becoming a pharmacist as a worthy profession.

“SB 265 helps to remove barriers that prevented health plans, hospitals and health care teams from integrating and utilizing the expertise of the pharmacist,” Boyd said.

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