County looks to cut drug costs

First Posted: 3/13/2010

LUMBERTON With the cost of medical plans and prescription drugs on the rise, Robeson County officials are banking on a county-run pharmacy to keep the cost of drugs down for county employees and save the county hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.
Were always looking for ways to save money, County Manager Ken Windley said. This is just another way of doing that.
By purchasing drugs in bulk and dispensing them to employees, a county-operated pharmacy could eventually save the county up to $600,000 a year, the manager said. The county already has two part-time contracts for a pharmacist to provide services at the county jail and the Health Department. These services cost about $78,000.
If we add a little more money to our budget, we can contract out for a full-time pharmacist, Windley said. A full-time pharmacist would cost between $90,000 and $100,000.
Angela Locklear, who has headed up the countys Wellness Program since August 2007, said she hopes the pharmacy will be operating by October. If so, she estimates the pharmacy in its first 10 months could save the county about $200,000.
My big goal is to eventually have a full-fledged Wellness Center, housed in one building, in which the pharmacy will be just one part, she said. We already have organized programs that support positive health behavior, as well as a clinic that since July 1 has been staffed by a full-time nurse practitioner.
Locklear said that the countys Wellness Program receives enthusiastic support from county employees. She said that 99 percent of the countys 1,064 employees participate in Wellness-related programs, with about 40 percent of the employees also utilizing services provided through the clinic.
Windley and Locklear said that the pharmacy would be housed in the old agricultural building, located on West Eighth Street across from the county administration building. Renovations of the old building to accommodate the pharmacy, clinic, and staff overseeing Wellness-related programs are underway.
Windley said that county pharmacies providing services to employees and their families are operating in several North Carolina counties. Cleveland County, he said, is one with a good track record of meeting drug- and other medical-related needs of its employees.
This is an excellent program with a lot of employee support, said Dorothea Wyant, assistant health and nursing director for the Cleveland County Health Department. It has proven to be an efficient program for both the county and its employees.
Wyant said that about 60 percent of Cleveland Countys 865 employees participate in the 5-year-old Wellness Program.
Noah Woods, chairman of the Robeson County Board of Commissioners, said he sees the establishment of a pharmacy as a significant addition to Robeson Countys Wellness Program.
Of course it saves us money, but the most important thing is that we have healthy employees, he said. If employees are not healthy they cant be productive.
Although still in the process of putting an operating budget together, Locklear said a county-run pharmacy can be operated at minimal cost.
Locklear presented the pharmacy proposal to the county commissioners in late January. Woods said that if funds are available, he will vote to include funding for the pharmacy in the countys 2010-11 fiscal budget.
If humanly possible we need to do this, he said.

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