LEIPSIC — Approximately one year ago, The Leipsic Community Center’s free medical clinic began serving members of the community. Currently open just once per month through a partnership with Mercy Health - St. Rita’s Medical Center, the clinic quickly proved what planners believed, that there was an unmet need in the community. Now, a year later, the Sentinel spoke with TLCC’s Exec. Director Kristen Pickens and Nancy Cain, Board Vice President on how things have gone since the clinic first opened its doors.

“I wouldn’t say there was any surprise from what we were expecting a year later,” says Mrs. Pickens. “I would say that what we were expecting is what we saw.”

According to TLCC’s website, the clinic addresses acute primary care. This can include conditions like: congestion, fever, ear pain, sinus pain, cough, flu symptoms, GI symptoms, and other non-chronic illnesses. In addition, when discussing the medical needs being met by the free health clinic, chronic illnesses also seem to be a major concern - heart disease, specifically high blood pressure, diabetes in terms of access to affordable insulin, and asthma, again in terms of costly inhalers.

“Sometimes we don’t carry [insulin],” says Mrs Cain. “Insulin is very expensive. So, we try to keep that expense down. But, the nurse practitioner here, he can write [prescriptions] for it. And, we have told [patients], ‘Here are some places you can get it at a good rate.’ And, that’s the local drug stores over in Ottawa. We try to keep things local.”

“And, the other big one is inhalers, Albuterol and things like that,” continues Mrs. Cain. “But, we try to keep that expense down by going through a pharmaceutical company out of Dayton.” The company sells inhalers with medication set to expire in under a year to the clinic’s pharmacy at a discount. With the need often being immediate, there is little risk the medicine will expire prior to its use.

The sharp rise in medication costs in recent years, particularly those that treat chronic illnesses such as diabetes has been covered extensively by national media in recent years. In 1923, Canadian Physician Frederick Banting and his team earned the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their discovery of insulin. Understanding its life-saving need, he chose to release the patent for free.

Now, pharmaceutical companies with a near-monopoly on manufacturing insulin have spiked the cost of this almost 100 year old medicine. As reported by Ken Alltucker with USA Today this past March, “Type 1 diabetics paid an average of $5,705 for insulin in 2016 – nearly double what they paid in 2012, according to the Health Care Cost Institute.”

“The meds are expensive,” Mrs. Cain continues, “That’s a big expense. But, we do thank Mercy Health - St. Rita’s Medical Center for providing us with all of the things that they provide us with. They really have nothing to do with the pharmacy…All the meds are either provided by the grant money, or the money that’s been budgeted towards the clinic.”

The TLCC’s pharmacy, which does not carry any narcotics, is run by volunteer Pharmacist Josh Cain, Mrs. Cain’s son, and a rotating team of interns he recruits from the University of Findlay and Ohio Northern University. There are also Spanish-speaking trained volunteers who assist with processing new and returning patients at the front desk, and often work with the medical providers in the examination rooms as well. Mrs. Pickens and Mrs. Cain estimates that 60-80% of the medical clinic’s patients speak Spanish as their first language.

The clinic is open on one Thursday per month from 4 to 8 p.m., with the pharmacy open from 5 to 8 p.m. The next date is Thursday, July 25, which also coincides with a free community meal offered by TLCC from 5 to 6:30 p.m.

With the limited hours, volunteers and staff have taken it upon themselves to go above and beyond for the patients TLCC’s free medical clinic serves. “We have actually taken the pharmacist and a translator with medicine out to the fields,” Mrs. Cain says. “Medicine we did not have when the man came in. So, on a Saturday, the pharmacist came back. He and the translator went to the fields to take the medicine to him.”

They did this, according to Mrs. Cain and Mrs. Pickens, for the same reason that the TLCC’s free medical clinic exists.

“Because it was needed.”