340B PROVIDER LEADERS SPOTLIGHT

Julie Valdes, Clinical Pharmacist & 340B Program Coordinator, Zufall Health Centers Inc.

Julie Valdes

Q: Where did you go to college/graduate school?

For college, I went to Occidental College in Los Angeles, California and majored in Biochemistry. For graduate school, I went to The Ohio State University and obtained my Doctorate in Pharmacy.

Q: Where do you live?

Morristown, New Jersey

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:   to a speakeasy called the Laundromat for indie music, then eatery South & Pine for Dinner

State: Thrifting at Woodstock Vibes, Roaming at the Turtle Back Zoo, Happy Hour at the Montclair Art Museum

Q: Tell us about your health care facility.

We are a federally qualified health center that serves over 40,000 patients, from newborn to geriatric. We have nine locations consisting of 2 dental clinics, 3 medical clinics and 4 hybrid medical/dental clinics. In addition, we have 2 mobile units, one medical and one dental. Our clinical sites span 7 counties across northern and central New Jersey (Essex, Hunterdon, Middlesex, Morris, Somerset, Sussex, Warren). Our mission is to provide, accessible, affordable, and quality health care to all those who walk through our doors, without regard to their preferred language, citizenship status, gender identity, religious affiliation, or insurance status. Over 75% of our patients have an income status that is 200% or less of the federal poverty limit. An additional unique characteristic about us is that over 80% of our clinical staff is bilingual in English and Spanish.

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

Over 50% of our patients are uninsured. An additional percentage is also underinsured, in that they may have a medical plan but no corresponding prescription drug plan, or the drug plans they do have contain excessive formulary restrictions that do not cover much. Without 340B access, via our contract pharmacies, many of our patients would be unable to obtain the medications they need, particularly if those medications have a specialty designation. Specialty medication access is exceptionally difficult for the uninsured and underinsured, as manufacturer assistance programs can have disqualifying inclusion criteria and coupon/discount cards often fall short.

The funds from our 340B program are used to support our mission. The net savings may be used to purchase supplies, bolster payroll to hire additional personnel, spearhead various initiatives and community programs or expand clinic locations, depending upon the year. Our 340B net savings provides vital support when federal funding, state funding and medical claim reimbursement amounts are not rising at the same rate of operational costs. Being a part of the Apexus PVP also helps us purchase vaccines and in-house supplies that are not necessarily on the 340B price file but can be very expensive at AWP.

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

I collaborate with our finance department, contract pharmacy stakeholders and various vendors to ensure the smooth operation of our 340B program. It makes me proud when I contribute to program changes that save costs, when I troubleshoot quarterly price file changes or manufacturer blockades or help resolve accounting discrepancies.  I have encounters with patients, and routinely consult with primary care providers, to help optimize medication therapies. It makes me proud to see patient metrics (e.g. A1c’s and SBPs) improve, particularly if these vitals were stagnant prior to engagement. I also collaborate with our nursing and PCMH Coordinator staff to purchase vaccines, medications, Title X supplies and point of care testing devices. I am proud that I am able to collaborate with personnel across our many sites to ensure they have the supplies they need.

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

Our wholesalers and 340B third-party administrators assist with the invoicing, inventory, and data management duties required to ensure our program is operating as intended, according to HRSA’s best practices. Their platforms and customer service personnel help ensure transparency with purchases and prescription processing.

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

Join NACHC Noddlepod and webinars to stay abreast of 340B program changes. Visit the Apexus website for useful guides. Create a network of fellow 340B Program Coordinators, to field questions and exchange ideas.  

 

For questions, Julie can be reached at jvaldes@zufallhealth.org.  To learn more about Zufall Health Centers, click here.

 

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