340B PROVIDER LEADER SPOTLIGHT

Jessica Rivas, Chief Pharmacy Officer for Big Bend Cares and Scholarship Recipient for the Apexus Advanced 340B Operations Certificate Program

Jessica Rivas

Q: Where did you complete your professional training?

I completed my pharmacy technician program during my senior year in high school at Westside Tech in Orlando, Florida. I am currently working on finishing my bachelor’s degree in biology. Before relocating to Tallahassee last year, I was attending the University of Central Florida.

Q: Where do you live?

Tallahassee, Florida

Q: If a friend came to visit you in your hometown, where would you take them? Where would you take them in your state?

Hometown: Depends on the time of the year, but Orlando has many fun places to visit. Disney is always a fun time if they visit anytime other than summer. I would take them to Universal’s water park called Volcano Bay or Discovery Cove for the warmer months.

State: Florida is home to some of the most beautiful beaches, so it’s a must to visit at least one or two of them. My favorite is the Emerald Coast, which includes Destin, Fort Walton, and Panama City beach. A few other favorites are Siesta Key and North Miami Beach.

Q: Tell us about your health care facility.

Big Bend Cares provides education and comprehensive support to people living with HIV/AIDS. Big Bend Cares is in Tallahassee and serves HIV-positive individuals in eight counties: Leon, Gadsden, Franklin, Taylor, Madison, Jefferson, Liberty, and Wakulla. Our demographics are centered on the minority population, in which 79% are African American, and 77% are below 150% of the federal poverty line. Our vision is to be a champion for ending HIV in a world where everyone has access to quality care. Our mission is to advance community wellness for all by providing comprehensive care and promoting sexual health. What makes us unique is that we are centered in sexual health and wellness with a focus on preventive medicine and quality care.

Q: What are some concrete examples of how your facility has benefitted from the 340B program?

In 2017, our 340B savings allowed us to expand by opening Care Point Health and Wellness. Care Point is a 27,000-square-foot facility that serves more than 6,000 clients annually. It is Tallahassee’s only one-stop shop for our clients and community, including primary care, infectious disease care, radiology, dentistry, pharmacy, mental health professionals, and lab work. We use our 340B savings to pay for insurance premiums, copayments for insured clients, monthly food bags, mental health services, yearly dental care services, and free transportation to all medical appointments. In 2021 we served 878 HIV-positive clients, distributed 3,730 food bags, provided 11,470 units of transportation, and filled 8,516 prescriptions. 340B has truly helped us stretch scarce resources as far as possible and continues to help us reach more eligible patients to provide them with comprehensive services. Everyone deserves top-quality health care; without the 340B Program, it wouldn’t be possible for many communities.

Q: What makes you most proud of your work and your organization?

I am proud to be part of Big Bend Cares, as we help many people in our community who are genuinely struggling. Tallahassee is home to the ZIP code with the highest poverty level in Florida, and we are dedicated to helping as many people as possible. I am proud that I can help our organization grow through my daily work with our 340B program and increase our savings while staying fully compliant. I work closely with our case managers, providers, and pharmacy staff to ensure that our clients are taken care of and adhering to their medication regimens. I’m also proud that our organization is fully invested in 340B and spends countless hours advocating for the program. Advocacy for the 340B Program is essential to continue providing high-quality care to millions of patients around the country.

Q: How has your facility benefitted from the services of your 340B vendors/contractors?

We work well with our 340B partners, including one that oversees a contract pharmacy inside our clinic. Having our contract pharmacy onsite helps patients receive their medication on the same day as their medical appointment and enhances medication adherence. Contract pharmacy oversight can be complex, which is why we work closely every day with our third-party administrators to ensure that our 340B program is operating as intended. Working daily in our TPA client portal allows us full visibility and ensures that we are always staying compliant. Our wholesaler is equally important, as we work with it to verify contract prices, invoices, and various reports. For our 340B program to work efficiently, we must work closely with our vendors and contractors.

Q: What advice do you have for 340B covered entities or staff that are new to the program?

My advice is to learn as much as possible and stay educated as much as possible, especially regarding the daily political changes occurring. I would recommend Apexus education to learn about various 340B topics and complete the free 340B University OnDemand. Another great learning tool is to attend a 340B University in person and/or attend one of the two 340B Coalition conferences. Networking is also a fantastic way to learn and help grow your program. Many covered entities face similar roadblocks and are willing to share insight that could help your organization. Because the world of 340B is constantly evolving, I would suggest joining any webinars, conferences, and newsletters to keep up to date on any changes occurring.

Q: Tell us about your career and your future goals.

My short-term goal is to complete the Apexus Advanced 340B Operations Certificate Program before the end of the year. Also, I plan on staying with Big Bend Cares and helping our 340B program grow so we can continue helping our community. Another goal is to get more involved in advocating for the 340B program, as it is crucial at this time. My future personal goal is to finish my education.

Q: Congratulations on receiving the Apexus Advanced 340B Operations Certificate Scholarship. What is your next step after becoming a 340B Apexus Certified Expert?

First, I want to thank Apexus so much for this amazing opportunity. I am thrilled to receive this scholarship, as it will expand my 340B knowledge. I am excited to learn about all the different types of covered entities, as I’ve only worked with disproportionate share hospitals, Ryan White and STD clinics. I would love to be able to help technicians advance their careers and teach them about all the endless possibilities in the 340B world. Many pharmacists and technicians have never heard of 340B, and I would like to change that by providing webinar-based education. 

 

To learn more about validating your 340B expertise with the Apexus Advanced 340B Operations Certificate Program, please visit 340BACE.com. Sign up to be notified when the next application window opens for the Apexus Advanced 340B Operations Certificate Program Scholarship by visiting Apexus.com/Scholarship.

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