Friday, August 12, 2011



Anna Hall and Ryan Roberts, members of Christian Pharmacists Fellowship International (CFPI), and Vinita Patel, resident pharmacist at the UF College of Pharmacy Medication Therapy Management (MTM) have joined our Home Van driveouts. Anna is also a professor at the UF College of Pharmacy and this fall she will have her CPFI students going on Home Van driveouts on a rotating basis. One CFPI student will go out on the Tuesday driveouts and work under the supervision of Dr. Abbitt, our Home Van doctor.

This is a huge step forward for us. Although we only dispense over-the-counter medications, none of us felt comfortable in that role. OTC medications are not harmless and should be administered from an understanding of the individual’s underlying medical problems and any other medications they may be taking. We gave out meds because, for example, alleviating the horror of a blinding toothache of someone who may, eventually, after being on a waiting list for weeks or months, get the tooth pulled, trumped theoretical considerations.

Anna and Vinita constructed a mini-pharmacy for the Home Van of tupperware containers that exactly fit into a banana box, each one labeled with the types of meds it contains. They are also collecting donations of OTC meds and are going to, along with Dr. Abbitt, help us apply for a grant to get vitamins from CVS.

To branch off a bit here, it has occurred to me that effective pain management may be one small piece in the effort to keep crack cocaine use from spreading. A few years ago we met a homeless woman who had two bad knees. She would come up to the van very slowly, with a friend helping her along, grimacing in pain at each step. Until one day when she came walking up to to the van, unassisted, with a big smile on her face. I asked her if she had gotten some medical care. She said, “No, I’m just having a good day.” After she left one of her friends said, sadly, “She’s started smoking crack.” Then I learned that crack is a highly effective pain medication that is available to homeless people 24/7. Our friend with the bad knees was a woman in late middle age who had lived indoors most of her life, holding down jobs and raising children. If she hadn’t fallen into poverty and homelessness, if she had had timely access to medical care and pain management, I don’t think in a hundred years she would have become a crack addict.

I’m not na├»ve enough to think you can fight the crack epidemic with a bottle if Ibuprofen, but, if you can keep even one person from walking down that road, it’s worth the whole game.

Anna tells me that their drive to collect OTC meds is getting off to a slow start, so some of you may want to contribute also. The dollar store on 13th street, the one down the street from Gainesville High School, btw, has excellent deals on aspirin and cold meds. The most frequently requested meds are for pain, heartburn, allergies, sinus congestion and skin infections. Vitamins are also requested frequently and, recently, many requests for Vitamin C. One of our homeless men follows the Linus Pauling Vitamin C regime and has been spreading the word that Vitamin C boosts your immune system and helps fight infection. He’s won a group of converts who have discovered that it really does.


We continue to receive wonderful donations from you, our extended Home Van family. A special thank you to all who have brought us bottled water. I wish you could directly experience how grateful people are for this assistance. So far this summer, the group of homeless folks we serve have not lost anyone to dehydration, which seems like a miracle to us when we are out there with them. After two hours we are fried, frizzled and done in. Spring Hill Baptist church makes their outdoor water faucet available to homeless people and undoubtedly other churches as well. It’s also a good idea to carry a few bottles of water in your car as you drive around. If you see a homeless person dragging down the sidewalk in this heat, give them some water.

Many blessings to all of you,

The Home Van needs tents, tarps, bottled water, Vienna sausages, creamy peanut butter, jelly, candles, white tube socks, batteries, bug spray, duct tape, books and games. Call 352-372-4825 to arrange for drop off. Financial donations to the Home Van should be in the form of checks made out to Citizens for Social Justice, Inc., earmarked for the Home Van, and mailed to 307 SE 6th Street, Gainesville, FL 32601, or can be made online at