Could suicide have been avoided?

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 9, 2004

A tragic death in Hale County might have been prevented if information on reduced price prescription drugs was available to all the residents of the Black Belt.

Wendell Taylor, 61, of Akron, committed suicide Saturday at his residence, according to the Hale County Sheriff’s Department.

A neighbor discovered Taylor still alive at approximately 8:30 a.m. Saturday after an apparent self-inflicted gunshot, said Hale County Sheriff Larry Johnson. The neighbor called 911, and Taylor was rushed to DCH Regional Medical Center in Tuscaloosa. He was pronounced dead at DCH.

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Taylor had "a lot of physical problems," Johnson said. He had reportedly made a statement to friends about killing himself and had told them he was "paying a fortune for prescriptions." Sheriff Johnson had in his possession a large sack of prescription drugs that had been recovered from Taylor’s residence.

His drug bill was reportedly running $1,300 to $1,400 a month.

A program exists in Greene and Hale Counties for reduced prescription drugs. Senior RX is a program for seniors age 60 or older through West Alabama Planning and Development Council Area Agency on Aging. Those interested in Senior RX must not have any other prescription coverage, said Melanie Allen, director of the program. "They need to have a chronic medical condition (where) they’re taking life-sustaining medication. They must be a legal resident of the State of Alabama. Their annual household income, for a household of one, cannot exceed $18,000 and $24,000 for two."

For those residents under age 60, the West Alabama Planning and Development Council can provide information for residents to apply to the pharmaceutical companies, Allen said. "Most major drug companies provide free medication," she said. "…In essence $2 billion of free medication is given away annually."

People will learn about generic drugs and what samples are available from drug companies, Allen said.

Residents in Marengo, Perry and Sumter Counties can contact Senior RX coordinator Beth Black at the Alabama-Tombigbee Regional Commission in Camden at 1-800-243-5463 for assistance.

Also in Marengo County, West Alabama Mental Health Center is the working with the county health department and the Department of Human Resources to administer a Medication Assistance Program with funding from an Alabama Delta Rural Health Grant.

Just with mental health clients, WAMHC currently helps up to 125 people receive reduced or free medication, said Patricia Moore, assistant director. In the overall community, there is a need to help people who take high blood pressure or diabetes medicine.

For more information on medication assistance in Hale County, call 1-205-333-2990 and in Marengo County, call Monique Birl at 1-334-289-2600.

Birl is on site Mondays at the West Alabama Mental Health Center in Demopolis, Tuesdays at the Department of Public health in Linden and Wednesdays at Bryan W. Whitfield memorial Hospital.