Drug discount help to start

Commissioners appropriated $40,000 from sales tax revenue to help fund the program.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Mahoning County's Prescription Drug Assistance Program for seniors is to begin in March.
The program will offer guidance in the sometimes confusing and time-consuming process of applying for company discounts on drug prescriptions.
At its meeting Thursday, Mahoning County commissioners appropriated $40,000 from sales tax revenues to fund the county's part of the drug program. The money will be used for staff and computer hardware and software.
The remaining $40,000 in startup costs were donated by the St. Elizabeth Health Center and St. Elizabeth Development Foundation, $30,000; and Catholic Charities Regional Agency, $10,000, said Kerry Collins, director of the Mahoning County Agency on Aging.
Program models
Mahoning's program is patterned after those in Trumbull and Ashtabula counties. Collins said Ashtabula County's program resulted in a 60 percent increase in the number of seniors using drug company discount programs and also resulted in a total savings of $1 million during the last 12 months.
Collins said there are 45,729 seniors in Mahoning County, representing 17.75 percent of the population. Many are not eligible for Medicaid and cannot afford medicines.
Applicants will meet with caseworkers who will help determine if seniors are eligible for any drug company program, and if they are, help them fill out application forms, contact physicians, mail forms, monitor progress and follow up.
Permanent location
The program's permanent office will at 1001 Belmont Ave. in space provided by Dr. Paul A. Wright. Until the office is up and running, county seniors who want more information can call the Mahoning County Agency on Aging at (330) 740-2130 or the Mahoning County Senior Center at (330) 744-5071.
About 25 county community agencies helped plan the program, and several have committed time and resources.
Besides the HMHP and St. Elizabeth Development Foundation, those agencies include the senior center, the agency on aging, Youngstown Area Community Action Council, and the Visiting Nurses Association, Collins said.
The program was developed by county commissioners through their special projects office and by the county Council on Aging.
Joseph Caruso, special projects director, has said most major drug companies offer discounts of 10 percent to 50 percent.
Collins said soaring prescription costs are a chief concern among county seniors. She said most of her daily phone calls are about that subject.

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