A tower of blue shrink-wrapped pallets sat in MAP International’s Brunswick warehouse Tuesday, ready for shipment to Syrian refugees in Lebanon and clinics in Haiti, Honduras and the Dominican Republic.

Stacked at least four stories high, the supplies are part of the worldwide charity’s decades-long efforts to put valuable prescriptions and medical supplies in the hands of the planet’s most vulnerable populations. Soon, though, some of those life-saving medications will be headed to patients who are much, much closer.

MAP International announced Tuesday it will partner with Southeast Georgia Rotary clubs and community clinics in Brunswick and Valdosta to provide its first-ever long-term domestic prescription aid program.

“Even here locally, there are people living in dire conditions,” said Steve Stirling, chief executive of MAP International. “We realize the need to take care of our neighbors first.”

The program, financed by donated funds from 63 Rotary clubs in Southeast Georgia, will serve about 2,700 low-income patients at Brunswick’s Coastal Medical Access Project and Valdosta’s South Georgia Partnership for Health.

Medications for hypertension, asthma, cholesterol and diabetes will be provided at low or no cost to patients served by the clinic for at least the next three years. Some antibiotics and over-the-counter medications will also be shipped to the two clinics.

“Basically, we wanted to partner with MAP because they are one of Charity Navigator’s highest rated charities in the world,” said Margaret Jacobs, governor-elect of Rotary District 6920, which encompasses Southeast Georgia. “We’ll be paying for the handling fee.”

That handling fee, Stirling explained, covers the storage, processing and shipment of drugs donated by pharmaceutical companies. Southeast Georgia Rotary clubs have pledged to fund the program for three years, Jacobs said.

The initial two-clinic effort is a pilot program with the goal of eventually expanding to more communities, Stirling said.

“This is a start, a test to find out what we can do,” Stirling said. “We can get these chronic medications to the people that need them. We all should have access to quality health care.”

The domestic initiative is a departure from MAP International’s historic mission. Since 1954, the organization has provided more than $5 billion in medical supplies to thousands of clinics in more than 100 countries.

Candace Rowell, MAP International’s program manager, said while there is substantial need around the globe, there is also need locally.

“There are 1.8 million people in Georgia who are uninsured,” she said of the state’s 10.3 million residents. “And there are 1 million who are underinsured. MAP has a long history of providing high-quality pharmaceuticals, and we felt the need to branch out into our own backyard.”

Making a local difference is important to the four Rotary clubs in Glynn County, said Michael Muldowney, a member of Rotary Club of St. Simons Island.

“I just want to stress the local club commitment to this,” he said. “They have put up their money, and this is, to my knowledge, the first local project like this.”

Source: The Brunswick News