Tribal Pharmacy Dispenses Free Meds and Fills Gaps for Native Americans in the City

by | May 24, 2022 | Health

MINNEAPOLIS — Tucked away on a side street near downtown, the Mashkiki Waakaa’igan Pharmacy offers its Native American clientele the services of any ordinary drugstore — it dispenses critical medication and provides consultation on treatments.

But there are two key differences: Every Mashkiki patient gets prescriptions for free — with no out-of-pocket expense — and can access care that’s conscious of cultural traditions.

Operated by the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Mashkiki is a fully tribal-funded pharmacy for members of any federally recognized tribes living in the Minnesota counties of Hennepin and Ramsey, regardless of their insurance status. It has nearly 10,000 registered patients and about 3,500 active patients, and those numbers are growing. According to the 2020 census, Native Americans make up about 1% of the population in the two counties, which are home to Minneapolis and St. Paul.

When Mashkiki opened in 2007, pharmacist-in-charge Kellie Milich was filling as few as seven prescriptions a day. Today, she and the other pharmacists are dispensing 300 to 400 prescriptions daily.

The pharmacy asks all its customers to try to get prescription insurance. A staff member will help them apply for Medicaid if needed. However, if customers can’t access insurance, the pharmacy serves them using tribal funds derived from enterprises such as gaming. Mone …

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