Avalon’s Medication Management Program

By: Avalon Housing

Since Avalon acquired a medication program in 2015, we have grown the program to become a more comprehensive and valuable service. Just like housing, we believe that accessible and consistent medication is a basic human right. Medication management helps Avalon clients get the medication they deserve and improves their quality of life. We’re currently able to serve 32 individuals by meeting them where they are at and advocating for the support they need.

Managing medications can be complicated, especially for those with unresolved mental health symptoms, or ongoing symptoms of chronic illness. This is why we offer a variety of services that are tailored to each person’s needs. At Avalon, we avoid the term “compliance” when talking about medication.  Each tenant’s involvement in the program is entirely voluntary.  We believe in self-determination and assist consumers in reaching their own health goals. We are able to offer different levels of support with the hard work of Avalon’s Support Coordinator and Residential Support Specialists.

How medication management works

Thirteen of the medication program participants receive “eyes on” medication, meaning that staff deliver, prompt and assist with administering medication, often twice a day. The remaining participants receive medications twice a week, weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly. Support Coordinators follow up with clients to check on their medication management in between ‘medication box’ deliveries. In total, Avalon’s medication program coordinates with 42 different prescribers managing over 230 prescriptions and passes more than 9,000 pills each month. This program would not be possible without Avalon’s ongoing community partnership with Ann Arbor Professional Pharmacy.

Laura Bernard, owner, Ann Arbor Professional Pharmacy

Laura Bernard is the owner and pharmacist of Ann Arbor Professional Pharmacy, located in Ypsilanti. Laura has been working in local pharmacies since 1994, and she graduated from U of M’s School of Pharmacy in 1996.  Laura partners with many community agencies who work with vulnerable populations. She considers her ongoing presence in this community to be critical in establishing the trusting relationships she has with many of the clients she now serves.


A vital community partnership

As Laura says, “every single patient is in need.” This includes individuals who are experiencing paranoia about taking their medication, individuals who are homeless and unsheltered, and those who are running into financial barriers. Laura believes that “life is hard enough as it is” and that tailoring her services to the individual allows her to make others’ lives a little easier. Ann Arbor Professional Pharmacy offers ‘compliance packaging’ instead of bottles. Medications are sorted and packaged by day and dose. The packaging for each dose has date, dosage time, and all included medications listed. This alleviates any confusion, increases number of doses taken, improves the client’s safety, and facilitates a better understanding of a client’s medication patterns. Ann Arbor Professional delivers to Avalon’s medication program, to several of our tenants who manage their medications independently, and to individuals all over the county.

Laura has found that she sometimes needs to adjust financial expectations for the population she serves.  At times she’ll need to forgive balances for people in distress, or forgo copays for a period of time until someone is financially back on their feet. For all these reasons, Ann Arbor Professional Pharmacy is a special place. In addition to being an excellent pharmacist, Laura and her team meet their practice, with empathy, flexibility, and dedication.

The story of one of our program participants illustrates why we manage medication for our clients. Our client has paranoid schizophrenia. When untreated he can become catatonic, which leaves him dazed and unresponsive. A few years ago, he fell into a vicious cycle, becoming deeply catatonic and unable to take his meds. He became worse without the necessary medications. This is when he began to receive “eyes on” medication management.  Because Avalon staff assist with him taking his meds, our client’s life has improved.  He’s even speaking in public about his experiences with mental illness. As he says, “my life would be terrible without the med program.” At Avalon, we believe that people deserve fair access to the medications they need. We know that medication management can save lives.

By Jessica Potter, Medication Program Coordinator/Support Coordinator