Leveraging Partnerships between Public Health and Pharmacies: An Interview with Carina Elsenboss

This is the fourth part of a series of interviews with local health department (LHD) staff who will present at the 2014 Preparedness Summit. Carina Elsenboss, the Interim Preparedness Director, Preparedness Section, Public Health — Seattle & King County, previews her session, “Leveraging Partnerships between Public Health and Pharmacies to Enhance Medication Dispensing Capabilities. At this session, Carina will be joined by Lisa Koonin, DrPH, MN, MPH, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Alex J. Adams, PharmD, National Association of Chain Drug Stores, Mitchel C. Rothholz, RPh, MBA, American Pharmacists Association, and Michael Loehr, CEM, CBCP, Washington State Department of Health.

Carina Elsenboss, the Interim Preparedness Director, Preparedness Section, Public Health — Seattle & King County

Carina Elsenboss, the Interim Preparedness Director, Preparedness Section, Public Health — Seattle & King County

Q:  Thank you for taking the time to talk with us about your 2014 Preparedness Summit workshop. Can you give us an overview of what the session will cover?

A: Our Summit workshop will share insights and lessons learned for engaging pharmacies and will offer practical suggestions for incorporating them into state and local medication dispensing plans for a Whole Community approach to protecting the public.

Presenters from the Washington State Department of Health, Public Health – Seattle & King County, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, and the American Pharmacists Association will provide background information on public health and pharmacy collaborations, including how tools such as MOUs and collaborative practice agreements can provide a legal framework for collaboration. Presenters will also discuss the impact of emergency declarations on pharmacy practice during an emergency. Collaborative practice agreement tools and resources from Seattle & King County’s Advanced Practice Center toolkit will also be shared.

Q: What has made Public Health – Seattle & King County so effective in collaborating with pharmacies?

A: While I can’t speak from the perspective of our pharmacy partners, for us at the health department it’s been effective to have open lines of communication between us, our local pharmacies and the pharmacy association. This has helped us not only build trust but understand what resources each of us can and cannot bring to the table.

Working with pharmacies in responses large (H1N1) and small (Pertussis outbreak) has also been effective in gathering lessons learned and identifying areas of improvement and that’s helped us iron out roles and responsibilities for a more coordinated response. For example, we changed our area command organizational chart to reflect a role for a pharmacy after one response.

Q: What are some of the challenges that LHDs may face in establishing partnerships with pharmacies?

A: Time and competing priorities are always an issue. Building relationships, convening partners, developing plans is time consuming – invaluable, but time consuming. For some jurisdictions, there may be legal or regulatory barriers either at the local or state level. And for others still, there may be uncertainty about the expanded role of pharmacists and what that might look like during a response.

Q: What are some of the strategies or tools that could be used to overcome those challenges?

A: If it’s too time intensive to identify and convene your local pharmacies, connect with the state pharmacy association, talk with them about how they could help you establish local partnerships. Your pharmacy association would also have insight on the legal issues and may understand how pharmacists’ authority may or may not change under emergency declarations.

Q: How should an LHD start the process of partnering with their community pharmacies?

A: Start with identifying your pharmacies. A great place to begin is with the state board of pharmacy or state pharmacy association; they will have your local contacts and may be able to help make connections. Have a meet and greet with one or more of the pharmacies to get to know them and learn about their interests and brainstorm how you might partner. Look into your local laws and regulations to better understand the legal landscape and how that might support or limit your public health – pharmacy partnership.

Q: If you had to choose one take-home message from your session, what would it be?

A: There are many advantages to partnering with pharmacies and you can make it as big or as small a partnership as works for your jurisdiction. If you can’t implement a collaborative practice agreement or MOU for legal or political reasons, think about how you can involve them in an advisory capacity or how they can be a part of your communication network to get important health messages out to your community.

Q: What are you looking forward to most about this year’s Preparedness Summit?

A: The Summit is always a great opportunity to learn from other LHDs and I enjoy hearing about their innovative approaches to public health preparedness challenges. I always return to Seattle with new ideas and new connections.

Join us at the 2014 Preparedness Summit and attend Carina’s session on Wednesday, April 2 from 1:30 – 5:00PM. View the full Summit schedule to see what other sessions are in store at this year’s event.

About Erin Roberts

Erin Roberts, MPH, is a Program Analyst on the Environmental Health, Pandemic Preparedness, and Catastrophic Response team at NACCHO. Her work includes broadening the public's access to medical countermeasures during a severe pandemic, fostering collaboration between public health and pharmacy, and contributing to NACCHO's food safety initiatives.

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