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FRAMINGHAM – Genoa Healthcare opened its 700th on-site pharmacy nationwide at the Advocates mental health center on Route 9 in Framingham, on Wednesday afternoon, March 29.

Advocates CEO Diane Gould, Genoa Healthcare CEO Todd Gustin, flew in from Minnesota, and Massachusetts Senate President Karen Spilka attended the event and ribbon cutting.

The Framingham location is Genoa’s second pharmacy in partnership with Advocates, which serves more than 30,000 individuals and families in Massachusetts with serious and persistent mental illness and substance use disorders.

The 1094 Worcester Road location is Genoa Health’s 17th location in Massachusetts.

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Todd asked me to share how and why Genoa is Genoa today and it’s really a remarkable story,” said Kevin O’Connell, who is Vice Presidentof Sales for Genoa Healthcare. “Our founder had a brother who lived with schizophrenia and he had a hard time managing his own medications. His brother said there’s got to be a better way. So he talked to a phlebotomist friend of his that still lives with us today and a pharmacist friend. And they drew up the plan on the back literally of a napkin, a plan to serve consumers with compassion and with expertise where they already received care. We started at a very small pharmacy in Oregon, literally it was a closet. And we soon discovered that not only should we focus on Clozapine and other medications that require lab monitoring, but whole-person care, filling all of their medications, getting to them to a place where they could have medication adherence and a trusted pharmacist that was part of their care team. And that’s brought us to where we are today. The momentum has just been remarkable. I started at site number 63 and here we are opening site number 700 today. So couldn’t be prouder.”

Genoa provides pharmacy services to individuals in the same facility they receive their care, making it easier to obtain needed medications and leading to improved health outcomes.

This pharmacy model has proven to help patients stay on their medications at a rate of more than 90%, compared to 50% with a traditional approach, and reduces emergency room visits by 18% and hospitalizations by 40%, said Genoa healthcare.

“Consumers living with mental and behavioral health conditions face challenges that impact their daily routines and overall quality of life,” said CEO Gustin. “The opening of our new pharmacy, in partnership with Advocates, is an opportunity to help bridge the gap in care and make a difference in health care outcomes and quality of life for those who need it most.”

“The official opening of this new pharmacy location marks an expansion of our longtime, proven partnership with Genoa Healthcare, one that has made a positive impact on the way our patients safely, efficiently and affordably manage their care,” said Advocates CEO Gould. “We’re proud to be the site of Genoa’s 700th location, and we are looking forward to partnering with their team as we continue to work to improve health outcomes for individuals and families in the Framingham area and beyond.”

“The 700 is an important milestone for us as an organization, but I think what’s noteworthy is it’s really about the consumers that we service. And so we’re around a million consumers now in 47 states. We are almost across the entire country,” said Gustin, who said Hawaii doesn’t have one yet. “But we have 17 in the state of Massachusetts and continuing to grow. And so we’re excited about growth and we think about it very much in the context of how do we serve more, how do we bring more of our service to our community?”

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Senate President Spilka said Advocates is “one of my most favorite organizations in the world, not just the Massachusetts, but the world. To hear them talk about personalized, respectful, integrated care, which sounds like it is a motto, but it is really important, particularly when it comes to mental health. I’m so happy to be here to celebrate. 700 is a milestone. It’s amazing.”

“It warms my heart to see your commitment to helping some of the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable people during some of their hardest times as well with their families,” said Senate President Spilka. “I’m deeply thankful to all of the providers, the partnership, particularly because there’s such a power in partnership in behavioral health professionals, patients, their families who have advocated hard to make something like this happen. As a Commonwealth, we are more aware than ever before of the need for this kind of access to quality, affordable, consistent mental healthcare.”

“COVID sort of enhanced this and brought it to light even more than it was there before COVID, but even more now because these issues are just too big to ignore. They’re with us. We need to deal with that. These are our friends, our neighbors, our relatives, and we need to be able to reach out and help. That’s why as Diane mentioned, and I so appreciate these issues are really important to me. My father suffered from major mental health issues. It was before things were really diagnosis before there were many medications to help, but I understand the ramifications of growing up in a family where that is very prevalent and the trauma that can ensue from that. So it’s what helps ground me and motivate me to work for better, more comprehensive, integrated mental health, behavioral health services and what help to me to push for the passage of the Mental Health ABC Act, which is consistent with what all of you are talking about,” said Senate President Spilka.

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“The ABC stands for addressing barriers to care and that is what we all are working towards. The healthcare reform, just in a nutshell, in my mind, helps people get the help when they need it. How they need it. It provides free annual mental health wellness exams to folks just like we get free physical health exams. It treats physical health and mental health the same because it is all health and wellness. It enforces finally mental health parody that was on the books for so long,” said Senate President Spilka. “I believe that this bill has helped make Massachusetts with the strongest mental health behavioral health laws in the nation. But we’re not going to rest on our laurels that we are going to keep moving forward.”

After a few short speeches, there was a tour of the new pharmacy and a ribbon cutting ceremony outside.

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By editor

Susan Petroni is the former editor for SOURCE. She is the founder of the former news site, which as of May 1, 2023, is now a self-publishing community bulletin board. The website no longer has a journalist but a webmaster.