Falling through the cracks: More people need help paying for prescription drugs Print
Written by Mary C. Uhler   
Thursday, Sep. 29, 2011 -- 12:00 AM

Editor's View by Mary C. Uhler

Those of us who take drugs by prescription realize we depend on those drugs to lower our cholesterol, keep our blood pressure under control, and do many other things to keep us healthy or prevent more serious health problems.

Some studies have shown that almost half of Americans take at least one prescription drug. And half of our senior citizens take three or more prescription medications.

We all know that the cost of drugs continues to rise. Plus the number of people who are uninsured or underinsured also keeps going up.

Falling through the cracks

While state and national efforts are underway to help people in need of health care, there are many who are falling through the cracks. That’s why the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Madison has been seeing a major increase in those requesting assistance with prescriptions.

Ralph Middlecamp, executive director of the society in Madison, says that while its food pantry and housing operations are as busy as ever, the biggest challenging is keeping up with the requests for help with prescriptions.

“Being able to take a required prescription is almost as important as getting adequate food or having decent shelter,” Middlecamp points out. “Lacking a vital medicine can be disabling or even fatal.”

Providing help with prescription drugs

That’s why St. Vincent de Paul provides vouchers for a local pharmacy every day to people who are risking their health because they can’t afford needed medications.

By late summer, the local society had spent $45,000 on prescription vouchers so far this year. Last year they spent $70,000 for the entire year. Middlecamp calls these only “drops in the bucket” of the much larger issue of affordable health care.”

While our state and our nation deal with deficits, unemployment, and a shaky economy, it seems that people will continue to need help with food, clothing, shelter — and prescription drugs. There are no easy answers.

Helping our neighbors in need

But until we find those answers, we need to help our neighbors in need. One way is to support the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in our communities.

This time of year is a critical time. Requests for help are high and donations are low, according to Middlecamp.

If you can afford to give a donation, I encourage you to do so. Write a check to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, P.O. Box 259686, Madison, WI 53725-9686, or get more information at the society’s Web site (

For those not living in the Dane County area, check out the national Web site (, where you can even donate online.

And remember to give clothing, supplies, and furnishings in good condition at the St. Vincent de Paul boxes and thrift stores located in many of our communities. Please help St. Vinny’s help our neighbors in need.