Cass official forming drug task force

By By JOHN EBY / Niles Daily Star
CASSOPOLIS -- Cass County District 6 Commissioner Jack Teter Monday afternoon announced the task force trying to develop an affordable prescription drug program for senior citizens.
Teter doesn't want the elderly choosing between basic necessities and prescription drugs they need because of cost.
Referring to NBC anchorman Tom Brokaw's characterization of the proud, self-reliant men and women who won World War II, Teter said he doesn't want the "Greatest Generation" sacrificing their health because pride got in the way of adequate medical treatment.
Teter said funding for this program, if required, may be obtained through possible grants and/or a countywide millage designated exclusively for this purpose. "However, from what I see, the funding needed should be limited. Tax millage would be the last resort. We're after utilizing what we have. We have to get it where Sue and her group can make out all the paperwork and give it to the doctor to sign. We need to do this efficiently. We don't want people to come in and apply for this program and wait 90 days for help. If we need to, we give them a voucher so they get their medication immediately, then we continue on the road to finding a proper source for it."
Teter said he envisions a "well-trained group of volunteers being available to our elderly on a regular basis to guide them to the proper source and to assist them in filing the proper paperwork in order to obtain their required prescription drugs in a speedy and efficient manner and at a cost they can handle."
Task force members include: Sue Colley and Tim Bennett, COA; Lynn Kellogg, Area Agency on Aging; the Rev. Mattie Roddy, Michigan Senior Advocacy Council; Ruth Andrews, Human Services Coordinating Council; Marian Teter, president, Prudential One Realty; Cass County FIA Director Chris Kadulski, Probate Judge Susan Dobrich, county Board of Commissioners Chairman Johnie Rodebush, County Administrator Terry Proctor and his Administrative Assistant Tara Myer, Chemical Bank Vice President Ilene Toney and Merri Terborgh, Borgess-Lee Memorial Hospital social worker. Task force advisers advisers additionally include: state Sen. Ron Jelinek, R-Three Oaks, who was represented by Chris Siebenmark; state Rep. Rick Shaffer, R-Three Rivers; Scott Teter, former Cass prosecuting attorney now with the Michigan Attorney General's office; William Howe, Pfizer government relations director; Jennifer Wrzeskinski, Pfizer executive assistant and program trainer; and Dr. Jessie Hsieh, Granger, Ind., Family Medicine. Teter introduced his "right hand in implementing this program for our seniors in Cass County," Executive Director Suzanne Colley. She said the COA "has the capability to help older adults with this. We've done it on a small scale, but what Jack's talking about is some major publicity to get this program out once it actually gets started."
Teter quipped, "I'm not impatient. Yesterday would be fine."
Teter said six of 51 pharmaceutical companies have been contacted.
Colley said the COA's present prescription program is supervised by the home care department Adrienne Glover directs. Glover and Suzanne Beurmann, RN, respite services director, have been trained in the Medicare/Medicaid Assistance Program (MMAP).
Mary Roberts, LPN and adult day services coordinator, is the staff person currently assigned to the voucher and indigent portions of the program. Staff at the EPIC site -- a state program which stands for Emergency Prescription Insurance Coverage -- are trained to assist seniors in completing forms. Millage funds can be used to pay the $25 fee if seniors cannot afford the cost. Colley said six seniors currently qualify for free vouchers. Prescription vouchers are funded with senior millage dollars voters approved in 2000 -- $43,378 since its 2001 inception.
The COA prescription program distributes forms from various drug companies for indigent assistance. The agency has held sign-up days for Pfizer's drug card and the NCOA Rx Together card.
Key issues critical to success of the program are physician cooperation, participation from Rite Aid in Cassopolis CVS in Granger, Ind., and Meijer in Three Rivers and the discount drug card of the National Prescription Health Plan in use in more than 38 Michigan counties.
Shaffer, a registered nurse, brings 25 years experience in long-term care administration before his election last year to the Legislature. "This is right down my alley. I've seen first-hand seniors spend down their assets and become impoverished and have compromised their health because they haven't been able to afford a medication. We're just Cass County right at this juncture. Somebody likened it to peeling the onion. As we take apart skin by skin, we're finding other, not necessarily roadblocks, but one question that leads to another question and to another question. It's a learning process. Jack has assembled a great, multi-talented task force," which met for the first time Monday prior to the press conference in the Kincheloe room of the courthouse annex. The panel's next meeting is scheduled for June 6.
With the Council on Aging (COA) and Family Independence Agency (FIA) lending support, Shaffer said, "We're trying to offer seniors alternatives to fund their medications. We're looking for funding sources that will best fit their individual needs because Medicare often doesn't pay for prescription drugs. Today's an important day, the first step in a journey," Shaffer said. "This is an exciting program because it's a supplement to Medicare and Medicaid. So many times I've seen that in-between group of seniors who fall through the cracks. Mr. Teter has assembled a very talented and highly effective team."

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