New Lebanon eyes oasis in ‘health care desert

New Lebanon eyes oasis in ‘health care desert

New Lebanon —

Wellness Rx Pharmacy in Phoenicia opened last year, becoming the first nonprofit

pharmacy in the nation.

Wellness is looking to expand into New Lebanon by opening another nonprofit pharmacy, the first in the

area. A nonprofit pharmacy is equipped to help people receive health care regardless of income level.

According to New Lebanon Town Supervisor Tistrya Houghtling, this will benefit the community by

helping the uninsured and those struggling to make ends meet.

“It will work the same as any pharmacy,” Houghtling said. “They take all major insurances. Most people will

use their insurance and pay whatever their co-pay is. The difference is that they have a community chest

where community members or sales profits go back into so that if somebody comes in that is uninsured or

underinsured, there is a source of funding to help them get their medication.”

According to Houghtling, the pharmacy will be located in Tilden Plaza and share a space with Filli’s Grocery


Houghtling estimates the cost will be north of $900,000, which will include renovating the space,

equipment and operating costs for the first two years.

Houghtling describes a nonprofit pharmacy as similar to a library.

“CVS is like a bookstore, and the nonprofit pharmacy model is like a library,” she said. “Not in the sense

that you borrow your prescriptions, but in the sense that it is community-funded and gets grants and other

funding through the government to be able to provide health care access and pharmacy services to all

residents, including those who are uninsured or under insured and cannot afford their medication.”

Houghtling said the need for a nonprofit pharmacy was born because the area lacks local health care.

Residents have to drive well over half an hour to receive their medications.

“New Lebanon and surrounding towns are health care deserts,” Houghtling said. “Residents need to consult

with a health care practitioner and access health care. We also have no public transportation, which makes

it very difficult for people to access pharmacies and health care in general. This not-for-profit pharmacy

model will bring not just a pharmacy but an entire wellness center, with access to mental health care,

primary health care, massage and acupuncture, and much more. It will be a game-changer for our

community and surrounding communities to have a wellness hub like this located in New Lebanon.”

Houghtliing has lived in New Lebanon her entire life, so she understands firsthand the need for easy


“Being born and raised in New Lebanon, this has been a need of our community for my entire life,” she said.

“In my first term as town supervisor, I met with William Gerlach, president of the chamber of commerce

for Columbia County, and he asked what New Lebanon needed as far as businesses. I explained that we

desperately needed a grocery store and a pharmacy as we were both a food desert and a health care desert,

with residents driving a half hour to access food and health care services, including pharmaceutical services.

Gerlach found this not-for-profit pharmacy through his colleague in Greene County, and we went out to

Tannersville to check out their location and proceeded to convince the pharmacist and pharmacy staff that

New Lebanon would be the next best place for a new pharmacy location. They were in conversations with

multiple municipalities who wanted their nonprofit model to come to their community, and ultimately,

they chose New Lebanon for their next location.”

U.S. Rep. Marc Molinaro recently toured the Wellness Rx Pharmacy in Phoenicia. It was here with

Houghtling that they spoke about the need for a nonprofit pharmacy in the area and possible funding for


“Congressman Molinaro was very supportive of this project as mental health access and health care access

are right in his wheelhouse,” Houghtling said. “We will be applying for congressional funding through his

office in February when applications open.”

Molinaro said this model has the potential for other towns to follow for their health care needs.

“Wellness Rx Pharmacy in Phoenicia is one-of-a-kind, blending a traditional pharmacy with holistic health

initiatives that incorporate physical and mental health,” Molinaro said. “There’s tremendous potential with

replicating this model across the state, and I welcome plans to bring one to New Lebanon. The project is

still in its early stages, and I will be doing everything I can on the federal level to support its growth.”

In the meantime, the town of New Lebanon will continue to search for funding at the federal and state


“We are looking to access funding through the federal and state government,” Houghtling said. “We have

been meeting with all of our elected officials, who are all very excited about the project and very supportive

of the project. The town has allocated $40,000 in ARPA funds towards the project, So the next steps are to

find the funding needed, and as we secure funding, the pharmacy will move forward with construction and

retrofitting the space.”