Ohio Senate Bill 265 has given Charitable Pharmacy of Central Ohio officials increased optimism about its bottom line and how it delivers services to its patients.

The legislation, signed by former Gov. John Kasich on Jan. 4, goes into effect April 5.

It recognizes pharmacists as health-care providers, opening up the opportunity for the Charitable Pharmacy to bill both private and Medicaid insurance plans for its services, said Jennifer Seifert, the facility's executive director.

"One of the big things it does is allows us to work more collaboratively with prescribers on patient initiatives and be reimbursed for our services as part of the team," Seifert said.

The nonprofit pharmacy, established in February 2010, is inside the Livingston United Methodist Church, 200 E. Livingston Ave. in Columbus, but it operates independently of the church.

It provides donated medication free to low-income, uninsured or underinsured patients.

Fewer than half its patients have some kind of insurance plan, Seifert said.

Although she did not have a figure about how much the billing could raise annually, Seifert said it would allow pharmacists, many of whom are students, more time to consult with patients about their medications and diets, as well as create new initiatives.

The pharmacists provide an average of 20 minutes of one-on-one consultation, also called medication-therapy management, with patients about their prescriptions, she said.

"The information they provide is very helpful," said Paul Williams, a Charitable Pharmacy patient.

Danny Simpkins, also a patient at the pharmacy, agreed.

"I ask questions; they ask questions," Simpkins said.

Pharmacists also are tasked with a number of other clinical duties, such as blood-pressure monitoring, Seifert said.

That's particularly critical for pharmacy patients, 80 percent of whom are on blood-pressure medication, and all pharmacy patients take an average of eight prescriptions per day, Seifert said.

"We try to find the right medications, the right dosage, to reduce side effects," she said.

In 2018, pharmacists and advanced interns identified and assessed 2,234 drug-related problems using consultations, according to information supplied by pharmacy officials.

Those issues focused on safety, efficacy and adherence, it said.

"Our one-on-one patient interactions at the Charitable Pharmacy, along with peer-reviewed research conducted there, has helped us to recognize and better address health-care patterns in our vulnerable patient community," Seifert said. "We remain committed to working with other healthcare prescribers -- physicians, nurse practitioners and physicians' assistants -- to better treat our common patients."

On the subject of new initiatives, Seifert said, "Last year, we received a national award for innovative pharmacy practices. We were honored, but also inspired to continue to find new and better ways to care for the health of our community. The need for affordable medicine isn't going away anytime soon. Neither are we."