by Benjamin Chavez, PharmD, BCPP, BCACP
Clinical Professor, Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus
Clinical Pharmacist, Director of Behavioral Health Pharmacy Services | Salud Family Health Centers
Member, BPS Specialty Council on Ambulatory Care Pharmacy
I work for Salud Family Health Centers, a Federally Qualified Health Center that serves rural and underserved populations in Colorado. I am proud to work for this organization which gives so much back to their community.
We currently have two clinical pharmacists on staff, both carry board certification in ambulatory care (BCACP), and one also carries board certification in psychiatric pharmacy (BCPP). We have developed a robust clinical pharmacy service, which involves pharmacists in several aspects of patient care. We have developed collaborative practice agreements (CPAs), which allow pharmacists to manage chronic disease states, such as diabetes and hypertension, as well as psychiatric conditions, such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. Pharmacists are also frequently utilized by primary care physicians for drug information consults. These can happen electronically or in-person, while in clinic. Pharmacists also provide frequent education in the form of newsletters and live trainings, whether it’s in-person or via webinar. Pharmacists are also involved in successful initiatives to improve quality and population health. Our board certifications have given us the credentials to validate our expertise and improve patient outcomes. In particular, our psychiatric pharmacy service has grown quite a bit over the last few years, and has allowed patients to receive psychiatric care in their primary care office, where they may not have received it before due to lack of comfort with psychotropic medications by their provider or lack of available psychiatrists to refer underinsured patients to.
COVID has changed a lot of how we practice. Both of our board-certified pharmacists on staff have been working from home for the last 4 months, conducting visits with patients telephonically. We have also been using technology, such as Skype or Teams, to communicate with providers during the day, and respond to real-time consults. In fact, we have been busier than ever, as now providers across all 11 clinics can reach us via electronic messaging. This technology has helped us to increase pharmacy’s reach across the system.
A large percentage of Salud’s population is Hispanic, and prefers communication in Spanish. Almost all the staff, including pharmacists, speak some level of Spanish, which helps to provide care to patients in their native language. I find this incredibly important as a pharmacist explaining to patients why their medications are important or what exactly their medications will do. I find that patients are much more likely to be adherent to treatment if they are part of the decision making and are aware of their treatment. Being able to explain things in a patient’s native language goes a long way in achieving this goal. I encourage pharmacists to work on their Spanish so they can better serve the Spanish-speaking population. I also encourage pharmacists and faculty to reach out to Hispanic students and promote pharmacy as a possible career option. I have found it rewarding to work with patients from my own background, and I hope to encourage others to do the same.