Jersey doc helping Wilcox County

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 2, 2004

Times-Journal Writer

Expensive prescription medications needed by the rural poor are now being provided through a clinic in Wilcox County associated with Edmundite Missions based in Selma.

Friendship, faith and foresight worked through Selma resident and United Way volunteer Kathi Needham to bring medicine to one of the poorest areas of Wilcox County. And Wilcox County, just south of the Dallas County line, is one of the state’s poorest.

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Needham, a Selma resident who is serving as Chamber of Commerce president this year, is also a United Way volunteer.

In fact, Needham is working part time for HealthLink, a partnership between the United Way and Vaughan Community Health Services, that aims to get free or reduced-price prescription medications from major drug companies for Dallas County seniors.

The program, based at United Way, is called the Senior Prescription Assistance Program, and is the first of several programs to be provided through HealthLink.

Inspired by that experience, Needham was able to connect prescription drugs and poor people who need them through a long-time friend whose husband is a doctor. Needham got

access to samples of expensive medicines that are especially needed in this region.

Knowing that the Edmundite Missions serve the rural poor, Needham, who is a Catholic, had the foresight to put the two together.

“I knew we could work together, since the Missions are a member of the United Way,” said Needham, a New Jersey native.

The result: Needham’s delivering a box of free medicine from Montclair, N.J., to the Grace Busse Memorial Clinic in Pine Apple last week.

Dr. Roseanne Cook, C.S.J., who serves the clinic in Pine Apple and Vredenburgh, said the medicine is “wonderful” and fills a tremendous need. Patients using the Pine Apple clinic live in eastern Wilcox County. Some 55 to 60 percent have no health insurance and 93 percent live below poverty levels, Cook said.

“We were completely out of this medicine,” she said. “This is the kind of medicine we don’t get much of for problems we have a lot.”

The samples address five major diseases most affecting quality of life seen in this area, Needham said. Donated medications include Allegra D, Lipitor, Prevacid, Prilosec, Toprol-XL, Vioxx and Zocor.

“We often get samples for new medicine – designer drugs,” Cook Said. “But these tried-and-true prescriptions, the real work horses that treat diseases we see a lot of, we rarely get.”

The medicine delivery began when Needham was talking to her friend Marylu Guiliano in New Jersey about the medical needs of the poor. Guiliano’s husband, Michael, is a physician who practices in a large metropolitan area that is near pharmaceutical companies and gets many samples from pharmaceutical representatives. Because his patients have income and insurance, the samples were not often being used.

The donation came with the help of Guiliano’s son Michael, president of the Students Advocating Medical Equality at Montclair Kimberley Academy in Montclair, N.J.

“I knew Edmundite Missions worked with health clinics serving the poor in Wilcox County and elsewhere,” said Needham. “Since they are an agency of the United Way, I thought that would be a great way to get the medicine to the people who need it.”

Needham plans to continue delivery as often as possible, at least several times a year,” she said. “I’m happy that we could bring doctors from New Jersey and Alabama together to serve the poor.”

Sister Roseanne Cook, a native of New York, is associated with the Sisters of St. Joseph in St. Louis, Mo. She first came to serve medical needs in Wilcox County in September 1987. She serves at clinics in Vredenburgh and Pine Apple, still makes house calls and is one of the three doctors on call at J. Paul Jones Memorial Hospital in Camden. She is a “double doctor,” with a M.D. and a Ph.D. degree in developmental physiology.