ROCKLAND, Maine&nbsp- The Knox County Health Clinic has provided more than $2 million in medication to patients in the region since 2004.

Through the Prescription Assistance Program, patients are able to obtain necessary medications whose cost otherwise would be prohibitive.

According to program administrator Dana Coleman in a press release from the clinic, “What I hear most often from patients is that they can’ t take their prescriptions because they are forced to choose between heat, food and medicine.”

It remains a primary goal of the clinic to make access to medications possible, regardless of cost, so that the people of the community can improve and maintain their health, Coleman added.

Coleman has served part time at the Knox County Health Clinic since 2004. She helps patients by navigating the application process the pharmaceutical companies require for obtaining low- or no-cost medications.

“The barriers mount for individuals who need multiple medications,” she said. “It becomes quite difficult to navigate as each pharmaceutical company has its own policies and procedures to follow.”

Coleman explained that the medications are provided free of charge or with a minimal co-payment. Most of the pharmaceutical companies require that the recipient’ s annual income not exceed 200 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. That translates to $20,800 for an individual, $28,000 for a couple, and $42,400 for a family of four.

Many in midcoast Maine are unable to afford medications to control conditions such as hypertension or diabetes that can lead to disabling and even life-threatening problems, Coleman said.

“Patients will space out their medications on their own, taking half of a pill instead of a whole, or taking it every other day instead of every day. This may help them financially, but it doesn’ t have the appropriate therapeutic or preventative impact,” she said.

Dr. Paul Klainer, the clinic’ s medical director, has seen the problems that occur when patients skimp or cut back their medication.

“People think that their diabetes or blood pressure is under control, but because they cannot afford the medication and alter their own dosage, they remain at risk for stroke or heart attack and their doctors don’ t even know it.”

Since the PAP program began, 509 people have enrolled. Of these, 203 are patients of the clinic and 306 are patients in community medical practices, according to the press release.

The mission of the Knox County Health Clinic is to build the capacity of the midcoast community to provide high-quality, low- or no-cost health and wellness services to low-income, uninsured and underinsured persons.

The clinic is located at 22 White St. in Rockland. For information about the Prescription Assistance Program, call 594-6994. For information about the clinic, call 594-6996.