Shop and Carry Pharmacy Removes Barriers to Medication-Assisted Treatment

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WHYY recently featured a piece on pharmacies in Philadelphia, which revealed that they’re not universally stocking medication-assisted treatment (MAT) despite it being the gold standard in treating individuals with opioid use disorder. The heavy stigma that surrounds the medication and those who may need access to it causes many to go without treatment, either because they don’t have access to a doctor who can prescribe it, a pharmacy who carries it, or they couldn’t afford it even if they did. 

Given the lack of availability of MAT in Philadelphia pharmacies, we’re even more grateful for the fantastic relationship Pathways to Housing PA has with our local pharmacy in North Philadelphia, Shop and Carry. They’re in the process of launching Pharmacy Wellness Group, a nonprofit providing state of the art pharmacy and prescription services to patients of nonprofit organizations, irrespective of their insurance status or ability to pay. 

Our Integrated Care Clinic is a satellite site of a Federally Qualified Health Center through Project HOME. Having the primary care clinic onsite, and integrated with our housing teams, mental health and substance use services, already breaks down many barriers to treatment that our participants face, but Shop and Carry is an important piece of eliminating additional barriers. Kara Cohen, a nurse practitioner in the clinic, says, “in the continuum of primary care, the relationship that a pharmacy provides is integral. When I think about the way we do our work, we have to be dynamic and meet people where they are. Shop and Carry mirrors this in their own approach.” 

This was illustrated quite literally recently when one of Pathways’ nurses was helping to ensure medication got to a particular participant. Shop and Carry was attempting to deliver but the person was not at home. Shop and Carry called our nurse and the nurse called the participant and discovered that he was waiting for the bus nearby, so Shop and Carry staff delivered the medication directly to the person at the bus stop. Shop and Carry then called the nurse back to close the loop so she knew everything was settled. It’s going above and beyond, and taking those extra steps, that makes the difference to someone with opioid use disorder continuing in their recovery. 

Tim Mulhern, MAT Case Manager at Pathways, notes that “there’s a lot of red tape in the world of MAT. I can call Shop and Carry and they work to immediately eliminate those barriers on behalf of the people we serve.”   

When asked why Shop and Carry would work with and organization like Pathways, owner Jittu George said: “We believe that meaningful collaborations between pharmacies and community organizations that provide valuable patient care is often a missing piece of the puzzle. Pathways not only provides permanent housing to those experiencing homelessness in our community, but also helps them with healthcare, addiction, jobs, etc. We believe better patient outcomes can be achieved through partnerships with like-minded organizations such as Pathways that share a similar mission and vision. Together, we can be stronger for those in our community that truly need us.” 

As an organization providing person-centered care for folks transitioning out of homelessness, Pathways to Housing PA relies on partners like Shop and Carry who go above and beyond to include individuals who have traditionally been treated like they don’t deserve the same rights and services as others.

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