by Rick Kuhlmey
In the beginning men went to a bush or a root for their medicine. As we became civilized, we learned to go to the drugstore for prescriptions. In today’s world, there are so many medications that we need to be certain which meds we take and how many of each.
Unfortunately, those of us who cannot read the labels needed to depend on others or take our chances. Some of us guessed wrong and got sick. Some of us survived — some did not. In 1996 an electronic device called the electronic audio prescription reader was invented to solve the problem.
Beginning in the 2000s and lasting into the 2010s, some 50 national blindness organizations combined their resources in a huge effort to put the devices into the hands of every blind and visually impaired (BVI) person in America. Despite several years of effort, only a small handful of pharmaceutical companies were dispensing the readers.
In their April 2015 board meeting, the leadership of the Nevada Council of the Blind decided to begin a campaign to make every drugstore and every person in Nevada know about prescription readers.
Research began to determine just where the effort to make use of the electronic audio producing devices was. As board members gathered the information and studied, they discovered that the responsibility of how the labels look, what is on them and how they are presented is the responsibility of the individual states. With this knowledge, the board decided to request legislation to mandate that pharmacies tell every customer the prescription readers were available, and help people to get them.
We approached Nevada state Sen. Moises Denis and asked him to sponsor a bill in the 2017 session of the Nevada legislature. Sen. Denis happily agreed to do so, as he realized this was an answer to a problem they knew existed but did not have the solution for.
Senate Bill (SB) 131 was introduced on Feb. 13, 2017, and the process of making it into law began. At the first committee hearing for the bill before the Senate Committee on Health and Human Resources, three members of NCB joined with Sen. Denis to testify in favor of the bill. Others joined in requesting passage. The lobbyist for the Nevada pharmacies spoke in opposition, as the pharmacies had problems with the language as it was. Thanks to a friend who spent about three hours with the lobbyist, language acceptable to both sides was agreed upon and SB 131 was referred to the body of the Senate with a “Do Pass” recommendation.
Then the effort to gather support shifted from the committee of the Senate as a whole. NCB again drafted letters of support and sent them out to many organizations and individuals, asking them to contact their senators to ask for their vote to pass the bill. The response was wonderful. Doctors, pharmacists and their employees helped along with all the blindness organizations, senior groups, and many individuals, caretakers and their supporters came together to lobby for passage. SB 131 passed through the Senate with a unanimous vote and was sent over to the assembly.
The assembly passed SB 131 unanimously on May 16, 2017. NCB members again testified before the assembly. It took many hours of devoted effort by NCB members to get the word out at every step of the way. The result was SB 131 became law on Jan. 1, 2018.
At the ACB national conference in early July, NCB received many accolades for its historic effort in passing this first of its kind legislation in the nation. NCB requested and the body of the convention unanimously passed a resolution commending state Sen. Denis for his sponsoring SB 131 and working diligently to pass it through both houses of the legislature. The resolution also urged other states to do the same.
Once SB 131 passed, the work began to make sure everyone in Nevada knew of the prescription readers, and the pharmacies knew their responsibility to inform every customer. The first step was to approach the state Board of Pharmacy and assist with writing the regulations that would be generated to ensure proper understanding and implementation of the law. The pharmacy board wrote excellent regulations, passed them and went on to not only include information about the readers in their newsletter but incorporated training about them into Nevada’s continuing education program that every pharmacist must participate in every month.
A list of the pharmacies in Nevada was procured, labels made, a letter was written and mailed to all 620 drugstores in Nevada, again introducing the prescription readers from a user’s point of view.
One NCB member developed a number of public service announcements. Several members created a list of radio stations in Nevada by searching for the telephone numbers on the Internet. They contacted every station and asked for the e-mail address the PSAs were to be sent to. They then sent the PSAs to all stations they had addresses for.
Then came the talk show call-ins, visits to talk shows, and answering questions from those who needed the readers, those who wanted to help spread the word, and professional caretakers.
We stand all amazed that a small group of dedicated people could accomplish such a task as this. We thank God for His wonderful help and acknowledge we would not have been successful without it. We are grateful for all the fantastic help that came from innumerable sources. We greatly appreciate the grant from the Albertsons Foundation that provided funds to pay the expenses. We know that to be successful, we must do something. We did it. It took almost three years of effort, but we have fulfilled our mission to work to make the lives of the blind and visually impaired Nevada residents better. We stand ready to help anyone else who wishes to do the same. We challenge every state affiliate to do it.
- Synopsis of Prescription Reader Campaign in Nevada
Synopsis of Prescription Reader Campaign in Nevada
by Rick Kuhlmey