The Franklin County commissioners May 23 gave $65,000 in public money to support the Charitable Pharmacy of Central Ohio, an agency that provides free medications and health screenings for those who can't afford it.

"It's life (or) death for so many people. It's just that important," said Commissioner Marilyn Brown, the daughter of a pharmacist.

The $65,000 from Franklin County taxpayers accounts for 9 percent of the pharmacy's overall $700,000 budget, pharmacy executive director Jennifer Seifert said.

The Charitable Pharmacy also provides health medication counseling, health screening and wellness education for low-income residents who are uninsured or underinsured. "We serve the generationally poor," Seifert said.

Those services help reduce hospitalizations, Seifert said, by dealing with pharmaceutical manufacturers and nursing homes to obtain unused medications that otherwise might have been destroyed.

Last year, the Charitable Pharmacy dispensed $6.5 million in medications to 5,500 patients. It has dispensed $25 million in medications since opening in February 2010.

"We've grown every year since then," Seifert said.

The pharmacy, in the Livingston United Methodist Church, 200 E. Livingston Ave., will use the $65,000 from Franklin County to match other funding it otherwise might not get.

Many of the pharmacy's patients, Brown said, face decisions such as paying for medicine or other life necessities.

"They truly were choosing between food and medicine," Brown said. "We've seen it work for our residents who are the most vulnerable."

Commissioner John O'Grady, who said he has heart problems that cause him to take 14 medications daily, understands what a lack of medication can mean. He said he supports the pharmacy and its work.

"Think about going without one of those (medications)," O'Grady said. "Imagine having to make that choice on a regular basis. This (funding) is kind of one of those no-brainers."

To be eligible, patients must be Franklin County residents. They also must be uninsured, be unable to afford co-payments or have no prescription coverage. Financial eligibility is $23,760 annually for one person and $48,600 for a family of four.