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Whidbey nonprofit starts offering financial aid for prescription drugs

North Whidbey residents struggling to pay their medical bills now have a new financial resource.

On June 1, the Medical Safety Net of North Whidbey, a newly formed nonprofit organization serving residents living north of Coupeville, began distributing financial aid to people who can’t afford to pay for prescription drugs.

While the fledgling group had only made two disbursements as of Friday, June 18, board of directors president Peggy Tyson said this was just the beginning and that she expects the number of people utilizing the service will grow quickly.

“I’m hoping it will become very important in North Whidbey,” Tyson said.

The medical safety net was created shortly after the Whidbey News-Times published a story in April of 2009 about its sister organizations, Coupeville-based Small Miracles Medical Support Fund and Langley-based Friends of Friends Medical Support Fund. Tyson said the story made it clear there was a similar need in Oak Harbor. Local residents responded and within just two months, the group’s board of directors had been formed.

According to Joyce Peterson, president of Small Miracles’ board of directors, they received 23 calls in 2009 for assistance from Oak Harbor residents. All of them had to be turned away due to the geographic restrictions of their bylaws and their donor base.

“We’re so grateful to the people who started this group because we were having to turn people away,” Peterson said.

Since the eight-person board got started last year, it has been busy becoming a legitimate nonprofit and raising money for its scheduled June launch. Taking in about $16,500 in donations and meeting the deadline was a significant landmark, Tyson said.

“It felt wonderful,” she said.

The Medical Safety Net’s service area incorporates about 47 percent of Whidbey Island’s population and, according to Tyson, the group will likely be serving between 200 and 250 people by this time next year.

By comparison, last year Small Miracles served 36 people while Friends of Friends served about 500. However, the South Whidbey organization provides financial assistance for more than just prescription costs.

Tyson said the group also plans to increase the scope of their organization, eventually helping people pay for medical and laboratory bills, visits to health professionals, and transportation costs to off-island medical facilities.

Those interested in applying for financial assistance can call 360-929-3328 or write to the Medical Safety Net of North Whidbey at PO Box 550 Oak Harbor, 98277.

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