Cannabis proceeds support rural pharmacies during pandemic

Local News

A pharmacist at work (Nexstar, file)

ILLINOIS (WCIA) — Nearly $1 million is being released to “critical access” pharmacies offering frontline healthcare throughout rural areas of the state as the global COVID-19 pandemic sweeps the nation.

Comptroller Susana Mendoza released $946,000 in payments from deposits into the state’s rainy day fund from statewide cannabis sales. State law requires part of cannabis sales be put into the fund monthly. In March, $1.1 million was deposited.

“Our ongoing effort to support rural pharmacies that are being squeezed out by unfair competition and managed care policies now takes on added importance as communities fight the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus,” Mendoza said. “Locally owned pharmacies – often the only pharmacies available for miles in any direction – are vital to stopping the spread of the coronavirus in rural communities. It’s more important than ever that we ensure these payments continue to go out so these small businesses can continue to be there for the people they serve.”

Payments released under the Critical Access Pharmacy program determined by the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services will go to facilities in medically-underserved areas. It’s the third distribution to critical access pharmacies under the program. In July, Mendoza released $4.7 million and $1.9 million in December.

The supplemental payments help small, independently-owned pharmacies experiencing financial hardships because of lower rates from the state’s managed care program and rate cuts by pharmacy benefit managers.

“Comptroller Mendoza recognizes the unfair business practices that have pushed pharmacies to the financial brink and inability to properly serve their patients,” said Garth Reynolds, executive director of the Illinois Pharmacists Association. “The COVID-19 pandemic is a prime example of why community pharmacists are vital frontline health care providers in delivering medication and patient care services.  Critical access pharmacies will use the released funds to keep  their doors open during the pandemic and serve their patients’ needs.”

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