Hopkins establishes ‘welcoming and stigma-free space’

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. — For as long as he can remember, Clint Hopkins has been drawn to helping people in a way that makes them feel comfortable and understood — and he wanted a profession that would allow him to do that every day. “And as a member of the LGBTQ+ community myself, I am especially passionate about increasing representation in the medical community, serving without judgment, and creating a welcoming and stigma-free space for all patients who seek care,” he says.

After receiving his Pharm.D. from the University of Tennessee in 2007 and spending several years working in numerous roles as a pharmacist, Hopkins and his husband Joel decided that they wanted to invest in a community pharmacy. After an exhaustive two-year search that took them across the country, they found Pucci’s Pharmacy in Sacramento. “From our first visit, we knew this was the place we wanted to be. We purchased the pharmacy from the previous owner, Tom Nelson, in 2016. Ever since, we’ve been thrilled to work in a community setting where we can closely connect with patients and continue the legacy that the community has come to expect from Pucci’s,” Hopkins explains.

He notes that dealing with COVID was a challenging time for everyone. “The onset of the pandemic, we were forced to think outside of the box in order to meet the changing safety needs of our community. Our customers began to rely on us for education, guidance and an overall heightened level of care — everything from their day-to-day health prescriptions and over-the-counter needs to COVID-19 testing, vaccines and treatment. We adapted by quickly expanding our delivery services and offering options like a contactless and curbside pickup. We also collaborated hand in hand with the Sacramento County Public Health department to procure vaccines at the earliest opportunity and bring in contracted nurses, pharmacists and interns to help support the ongoing inoculation effort. Throughout the pandemic, we’ve been able to prove that Pucci’s, as a community pharmacy, plays an integral role in keeping the Sacramento area safe while increasing access to critical health services for the most vulnerable populations.”

He adds that when COVID-19 hit, the pharmacy reached out proactively to the county health department and volunteered to help with mass vaccination campaigns. “We saw tremendous success through our COVID response, which deepened our existing community relationships and connected us with many new patients who now see us as a trusted destination for care. Then, when the monkeypox outbreak spread to Sacramento, the county asked us for help with administering those vaccines as well. Of course, we jumped at the opportunity. Not only are we protecting the Sacramento community but, as LGBTQ+ owners, our broader community that the virus is disproportionately affecting. It was very important for us to get out ahead of it and offer our help. We knew that our pharmacy’s reputation as a site for equitable care and the relationships we’ve built with LGBTQ+ patients would enable us to quickly and effectively reach those most at risk.”

Hopkins notes that Pucci’s Pharmacy is a member of AmerisourceBergen’s Good Neighbor Pharmacy network. “As a part of this network, we receive support on the administrative and business side of the pharmacy, so that patient care can remain our top priority. With the help of specialized experts, we have access to valuable services and solutions around digital marketing, contract negotiations, inventory management, data analytics, and more, which are all tailored to make the most impact for our pharmacy’s specific goals. With the help of Good Neighbor Pharmacy, we are able to focus more of our time on our patients, rather than time-consuming administrative tasks.”

He adds that as LGBTQ+ owners, they are proud to have played such an integral role in vaccinating and educating the Sacramento community against the monkeypox virus as well. “To date, we’ve administered more than 50% of the vaccine supply allotted to Sacramento County. Being that the virus disproportionately affects the LGBTQ+ community, there is a lot of stigma surrounding monkeypox, which can hinder vaccination efforts.”

He says, “For example, some people may not feel comfortable revealing their sexual orientation to family, friends or employers, which could happen if they were seen at a testing site or clinic to receive the vaccine. To combat this and increase convenience, we’ve started, quite literally, meeting patients where they are by offering monkeypox vaccines at pop-up clinics at popular LGBTQ+ clubs and events in the area, and by traveling across town to personally administer shots at private gatherings. Word of our efforts has spread fast within the community — and we now have patients traveling to us from other cities and states because they know we will provide the care they need without fear of stigma.”

Pucci’s offers a long list of services for everyone in its community. “Our pharmacy has long been known as an LGBTQ+ friendly and sex-positive destination for care in the Sacramento community. We have been offering point-of-care testing for flu, Strep and COVID, and our next clinical service we will be adding on is to provide HIV testing at the pharmacy and prescribe PrEP, which helps protect at-risk people from getting infected with HIV. We also offer prescription compounding, adherence packaging, medication synchronization, medication therapy management services, and more. Our customers — no matter who they are — know they can seek the highest level of personalized care at Pucci’s without fear of judgment,” he points out.

Hopkins notes that the pharmacy places a lot of importance on educating the patient. “Our philosophy has always been to place great emphasis on individualized care. We believe each patient deserves the greatest level of respect, care and attention we can offer. We’ve taken numerous steps to facilitate a comfortable environment for all at Pucci’s, beginning with taking the time to get to know each patient on a personal basis, understanding their health concerns and needs, and providing them with the necessary knowledge and information to help them enjoy long, healthy and fulfilling lives. We also offer a private consultation room, which helps facilitate open and honest conversations that enable better patient outcomes,” he notes.

Hopkins adds that his favorite part of the job is getting to know the patients and their families. “Patients really appreciate when their pharmacist and their staff know them and care about them. I once had a patient come in who was suffering from genital warts. He’d had them for several months, but never felt comfortable going to his primary care provider for treatment. The patient felt like he could open up to me for help, as his pharmacist. In the end, we were able to get him the care he needed and connect him with a provider he felt more comfortable with. The next time I saw him, he was so grateful and shared how much better he felt with his new doctor. Moments like these are the reason why I am so passionate about creating welcoming spaces for all and increasing representation in the industry.”

Hopkins cites the pharmacy’s previous owner as his mentor. “We’ve been proud to carry on the legacy of Pucci’s previous owner, Tom Nelson, since we took over the business in 2016. When the AIDS epidemic swept the country in the 1980s, Tom was one of the only pharmacists in the area filling prescriptions for new anti-HIV medications and providing critical care at a time when many pharmacies were denying both to patients in need. He was truly a lifeline for patients who had nowhere else to turn. While Tom originally helped foster this trust and close relationship between Pucci’s and the LGBTQ+ community, we are so proud and honored to continue his inspiring legacy by serving the underserved in our community,” he concludes.


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