AHCH Program Spotlight: Pharmacy

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Updated 11/26/2021

AHCH’s Pharmacy Services Strive To Meet Changing Needs

Community Health Centers Increase Access to the COVID-19 Vaccine

    AHCH Pharmacist, Larry Lovato, provided an update on the ongoing COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic, which is every Tuesday at the AHCH Pharmacy from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. The COVID-19 vaccine is available for people who are experiencing homelessness who wish to be vaccinated. People experiencing homelessness live with an elevated risk for illness and infection, including underlying health complications, making them increasingly susceptible to contracting COVID-19 and suffering lasting effects. To date, AHCH has administered approximately 135 COVID-19 vaccines of the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson (J&J) according to Larry. The J&J COVID-19 Vaccine was 66.3% effective in clinical trials (efficacy) at preventing laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 infection in people who received the vaccine and had no evidence of being previously infected. People had the most protection 2 weeks after getting vaccinated according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Unlike Pfizer and Moderna’s two-dose series, J&J was a one-and-done deal. It granted full immunity with half the effort — no follow-up appointments needed. That, in addition to easier storage and handling guidelines, solidified J&J as the go-to choice in clinics for people experiencing homelessness writes health blog VTDigger. AHCH clients and patients can also receive a flu vaccine. Influenza (flu) vaccines (often called “flu shots”) are vaccines that protect against the four influenza viruses that research indicates most common during the upcoming season.

For more info, call the AHCH Pharmacy at 505-242-4644. Follow AHCH on social media at @abqhch or visit abqhch.org.


    AHCH Program Spotlight: Pharmacy

You can make access to needed medication to thousands annually


In early October 2018, state health officials declared an outbreak of Hepatitis A, a local public health emergency. It has since identified community partners, including pharmacists, to help contain the outbreak. AHCH Pharmacists Larry, said local public health officials reached out AHCH because they needed help with the vaccination response.



Currently, the AHCH Outreach Team, which includes a Harm Reduction Specialist, a counselor, and a Nurse Manager began outreach and education efforts to stop the disease from spreading, specifically targeting people who are experiencing homeless and individuals who are injecting substances. A partnership with the New Mexico Department of Health ensures people who are at risk of contracting Hepatitis A are receiving the vaccine said Larry.

Soon, the AHCH Pharmacy will be providing a clinic for the Hepatitis A vaccines and flu vaccines. AHCH Chief Health Officer Venita Pine said, “If we can provide a clinic specific for the vaccines, we can eliminate the wait time for people who need it most and free up the medical clinic for medical services.”

Hepatitis A infection is often tied to poor sanitation and usually spreads when someone ingests even “microscopic amounts” of fecal matter from an infected person, according to the NMDOH. Signs of the disease include fever, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, dark urine, and yellowness of the skin and eyes. The illness can be short-lived, but more serious cases can last several months.

Extreme cases can cause liver failure or death, but it is typically a short-time illness and does not become chronic, according to the CDC website.

On a typical day, Larry sees about 20 patients. He said the most common diagnoses that require prescription therapy at AHCH have been diabetes, high blood pressure, and depression. As mentally ill people's disabilities worsen, their ability to cope with their surroundings or the ability of those around them to cope with their behavior becomes severely strained. In the absence of appropriate therapeutic interventions and supportive alternative housing arrangements, many wind up on the streets according to the National Health Care for the Homeless Council. 

Further, the Council recommends these clinical standards for any health care for the homeless' pharmacies:
Simple regimen- low pill count, once-daily dosing where possible.
Dispensing- on site in small amounts to promote follow-up
Aids to adherence- harm reduction, outreach, or case management 
and many more
"All I really want to do is give the best care plan for that person that day. I know that they probably don't have a home to return to, but while they are here, we try to provide the best care possible," said Larry. He hopes to develop a more comprehensive warm-handoff system with the AHCH Resource Center and the Client Advocate team to ensure people who need additional social services will be received with care.      In addition to pharmaceutical services, the pharmacy also offers referrals to harm reduction services, social work, dentistry, psychological, licensed professional counseling, and Suboxone therapy. Building trust and providing services is a good step to enabling people experience homelessness toward prioritizing their own health, but the road doesn’t end there. The AHCH Pharmacy works with patients transitioning into housing to keep access to health care available to them said Larry. Regardless of the barriers, the pharmacy continues to make health care for the homeless their top priority because of the value they see their care provides.  You too are part of this team. You have the power to save a life today. Be a hero. Make a monthly recurring gift to AHCH.  Image Credits: upper right, Jeremy Yazzie/ Lower Center, AHCH

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