Employees at the Texas Farm Bureau corporate headquarters in Waco now can fill their prescriptions at work, adding to amenities that include a walking track, wellness center, workout room and access to an on-site doctor.
They also may enroll in programs to win prizes for losing weight.
During a media event Thursday, the advocate for Texas farmers and ranchers that also sells insurance unveiled a new Baylor Scott & White Pharmacy kiosk. It reportedly is the first such remote kiosk of its kind in Texas, though Scott & White will roll out more in the coming months, a news release states.
“As we continue to increase access to quality care throughout the state, it is important that we make it easier for patients to follow their treatment plan,” said John McWhorter, Baylor Scott & White Health chief operating officer, in a statement. “These convenient pickup kiosks are offered in addition to the pharmacy delivery service we are piloting in some of our markets.”
Carrollton and Round Rock are the markets where kiosks not assigned to a specific business have been tested, said Tammy Cohen, vice president of pharmacy at Baylor Scott & White Health, in an email message.
The nearly 500 people employed at the Texas Farm Bureau complex off Fish Pond Road now may fill 30- and 90-day prescriptions by punching in identification codes. The drugs drop into one of several dispensing chutes, arriving in white sacks reminiscent of those at pharmacy drive-thru windows. Employees can pick up their prescriptions at their convenience.
During the Thursday walk-through, lights beeped on the kiosk when the prescription was ready for retrieval. A live pharmacist appeared on a screen to offer assistance when the appropriate function was activated.
A slot for credit cards would process co-pays. Cash was not accepted.
Cohen, in an interview, said Baylor Scott & White Pharmacy in 2017 began testing an automated prescription pickup system, with the approval of the Texas State Board of Pharmacy. The board later approved new rules that took effect in June 2018, allowing Texas pharmacies to deliver medications outside of retail pharmacy locations via a kiosk, according to a news release.
Texas Farm Bureau executive director Si Cook said the kiosk complements wellness and health programs the farm bureau already provides, including the on-site clinic operated by Baylor Scott & White Health.
A fact sheet provided by Baylor Scott & White Health said all prescriptions can be filled at kiosks; prescriptions are available at the kiosk within hours of when they are called in and can be picked up 24 hours a day; pharmacist consultations are available by phone or video at all times; and the kiosks are able to preserve medications in a climate-controlled environment.
Cohen said though Texas Farm Bureau is the first business to receive a remote kiosk, consumers in the Dallas/Fort Worth, Temple and Austin areas will see kiosks installed at Baylor Scott & White Health locations.
During an interview, Farm Bureau executive director Cook said use of the prescription kiosk is optional for employees. He said the bureau agreed to install the kiosk due to a longstanding relationship with the health system.
“We had no idea the technology existed, and did not see a down side,” said Cook. “We’re always willing to listen to innovative ideas.”
He said he’s certain other companies will inquire about the success of the program and its acceptance among employees.
Penny Anderson, human resources director for the Farm Bureau, said her office will answer questions employees may have about the service. She said staffers with difficulty navigating the machine should have little trouble finding help, either at the kiosk itself or in human resources or the wellness center.
Employees no doubt will let management know of chronic problems.
“They will not suffer in silence, I guarantee you,” said Cook.
The kiosk at the Farm Bureau is a ScriptCenter product. The ScriptCenter website says the technology allows pharmacy staff to control filling and checking prescriptions, while the kiosk takes care of payments and pickups. It says the service is becoming popular with health systems and at military bases, college campuses and retail centers.
It says ScriptCenter provides an array of privacy and security systems, including fingerprint scanning, cameras and signature-capture devices.
More lost pets in the Waco area are finding their way home, thanks to a microchipping requirement, but the Waco Animal Shelter has room for improvement when it comes to owners reclaiming their pets, officials say.
The shelter’s reclaim rate currently sits at about 14.4%, members of Waco’s Animal Welfare Advisory Board learned last week. Board member Michelle Nemec said that’s not bad for a shelter that covers so much ground, but the board has been looking into ways to improve the reclaim rate for some time.
“We’ve been discussing a lot of topics and areas where we want to improve,” Nemec said. “We’re not done.”
Nemec said the shelter’s reclaim rate sat at a mere 8% in fiscal year 2013. That same year, Waco adopted an ordinance requiring residents to microchip their pets. She said after 2013, the rate steadily improved.
“The reclaim rate was jumping a couple of percentages every year,” Nemec said.
Nemec said that’s an improvement, but the reclaim rate has remained mostly steady for the last year. There are many reasons someone might not reclaim a pet, but she said reclaim fees are the largest hurdle for most people.
Reclaiming an animal is free for the first 24 hours. The cost of reclaiming an animal depends on whether or not they have a shot record, a microchip, proof of rabies vaccination or if they’re already spayed or neutered. Animals coming from outside of Waco may have additional fees. The fees stack up and sometimes exceed $200, officials said. Nemec said those fees should be re-evaluated.
“We feel like we have a lot of potential there,” Nemec said. “Other well-performing shelters are doing things to improve.”
Making sure citizens are aware of the shelter’s location and hours is also key. The shelter also posts photos of lost cats and dogs to a map pinpointing where each animal was picked up in the city. She said simplifying the reclaim process would likely improve the rate as well. She cited the Austin Animal Center’s 21% reclaim rate as a tangible goal for Waco to try to meet.
“I think that’s a decent target for now,” Nemec said.
Animal Shelter Director Danielle Tate said pet owners have 72 hours to reclaim a pet once they’ve been brought to the shelter. After that window, the city goes from being an animal’s “custodian” to being its “owner.”
“If you only have three days to come up with a couple hundred dollars, then some people just can’t do it,” Tate said.
Humane Society of Central Texas Director Don Bland said last year he received a grant through Petsmart that allows him to help people pay reclaim fees, whether that means giving them money or simply lending it to them.
“For a long time, if they couldn’t reclaim them, that was just the way it was,” Bland said.
Some people pay Bland back, extending the life of the grant. Others come back as shelter volunteers.
“I saw the need,” Bland said. “People really wanted their animals, but they just physically could not afford it.”
Motorists were stranded by rising water late Thursday afternoon as a strong thunderstorm rolled into McLennan County, flooding streets and causing emergency officials to urge drivers to use caution while traveling in the powerful storm.
The National Weather Service issued a flood advisory for eastern McLennan County around 4:45 p.m. until 7:45 p.m. Thursday. The agency reported that rainfall of 1 to 2 inches within a 90-minute period had flooded creeks and low-water crossings.
The Waco Fire Department around the same time reported on Twitter that it had received “numerous calls” to help stranded motorists.
“We had a large rain event that moved into the area quickly and resulted in about 25 emergency calls in an hour,” Waco Deputy Fire Chief R.M. Bergerson said. “The majority of those were cars stuck in high water, which generated multi-unit response, and at the height of the flooding, we have multiple water rescues happening at once.”
The ground was already saturated from recent rains, including about 1 inch recorded at Waco Regional Airport early Thursday. Before the afternoon rain, Waco was already up about 4 inches over the normal year-to-date rainfall, with 14.8 inches recorded since Jan. 1. Waco saw 6.81 inches of rain in April.
The rain eased off about an hour after it began. Bergerson said low water crossings were flooded, but the water receded quickly.
“As just about as quickly as the rain moved it, the water started to recede,” he said. “That was the true definition of a flash flood.”
A woman was rescued from her car on Franklin Avenue, near the overpass of Valley Mills Drive during the storm. Bergerson said the swift water rescue team responded to multiple calls, but no one reported any injuries.
“We really want to remind people that if you cannot see the road, it is better to turn around, don’t drown,” Bergerson said.
Other areas that experience flooding included Bellmead, Bruceville-Eddy, Beverly Hills, Hewitt, Lacy Lakeview, Lorena, McGregor, Robinson, Mart and Riesel.
The National Weather Service said rain changes are at about 90 percent Friday, with additional rainfall amounts between a half and three-quarters of an inch possible.
Note: This story has been corrected to reflect that McGregor city and school elections will be held at H.G. Isbill Junior High School and that the Connally ISD election will be at the Lacy Lakeview Civic Center.
McLennan County voters have one more day to cast their ballots in a handful of contested races and bond issues and one local option referendum in the May 4 elections.
Election Day is Saturday, and polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
More than 2,300 people voted early, which is about average for McLennan County, according to early voting numbers posted on the McLennan County Elections website. Exactly 2,366 voters either voted early in person or by mail-in ballot.
In the May 2018 election, 1,659 people voted early, according to the county elections office. In 2017, more than 4,300 people voted early in the May elections, and in 2016, 1,141 voters cast early ballots.
Neither the city of Waco nor McLennan County has races on the ballot. Voters will pick three council members for Hewitt, the second largest city in the county with 14,400 residents. Among the nine candidates for the three seats are two former city officials who were mired in a political fiasco last year.
Starting in May 2018, the Hewitt City Council endured months of public turmoil that involved city employees, including City Manager Adam Miles. The upheaval led to Councilman Kurt Krakowian’s resignation this past summer and Miles’ acceptance of a separation agreement with the city.
The two men have remained in open conflict with one another and are among the five at-large candidates.
The other at-large candidates are Michael S. Bancale, Mike Field and Betty Orton.
For the Ward 1 seat, incumbent Travis Bailey faces Charles D. “Charlie” Turner, a former council member and mayor of Hewitt.
In Ward 3, current at-large council member Erica Bruce, a toxicologist and Baylor University medical researcher, is running against A.C. “Tony” Martinez, who ran against Bruce in the at-large race she won in a December runoff election.
Robinson Independent School District is asking voters to approve a $31.5 million bond issue, five years after voters passed a bond issue to build a new intermediate school. This year, the district seeks the bond to overhaul its multi-building junior high school campus, built in the late 1960s.
In 2014, Robinson ISD’s $19.5 million bond issue to replace the 50-year-old intermediate school for grades four through six passed by 19 votes, according to Tribune-Herald archives.
That successful bond election came after two failed ones in 2011 and 2013.
The proposed 2019 bond issue would add about $303 per year in property taxes to the average home, valued at $187,095, in the Robinson ISD taxing zone, according to the bond issue website.
Other contested races include:
Place 2: Travis Gibson and Ioan Faur
Mayor: Franklin Abel and Marilyn Judy
Three at-large seats: Bob Meneely, George Kilgo, Russell Stanley Smith and Billy Sparks
Three at-large seats: Bruce Bundant, Robert Plsek, Barbara Seitz and Charles Wilson
Two at-large seats: Kollin Behrghundi, Tommy Roberson, Odell Nevills and John Garrett
Two unexpired terms: Trevor Baize, Haley Pankonien and Rhonda Honeycutt
At-large: Tony Ocampo and Alfredo M. Macedo
Local option election to legalize the sale of mixed beverages in restaurants by food and beverage certificate holders only
McGregor is holding its election independently, not hiring the county to conduct it, so its polling locations are separate from the county vote centers. City of McGregor and McGregor Independent School District voting will be at H.G. Isbill Junior High School gym, 734, W. Third St.
Place 2: Dan Hancock and Danny Raines
Connally ISD is also holding an independent election, and its voting location is in the Lacy Lakeview Civic Center, 505 E. Craven Ave.
Three at-large seats: Darren Hayes, Casey Abel, Amy Maddox, Michael Wiethorn, Chad Lewis and Ricky Steinkamp
Bond election for $1.9 million for construction, improvement, renovation and equipment for school buildings
Two at-large seats: Bruce Cresson, Denny Kramer and Russ Johnson
Four at-large seats: Robbie Jo Allison, Joe Franks, Chad Kasting, Chris Knox, David Lillard, Shane Lorenz, Andrea Martin-McDaniel, Chad Miller, Kyle R. Paschall, Gary Zacharias, Missy Zacharias and Troy Zacharias
Place 6: Andrew B. Popejoy and Ivan A. Green
Two Waco children whose reported kidnapping led to an Amber Alert and search late Wednesday were found safe early Thursday at the home of a day care worker, leading police to conclude that the mother had forgotten the children at day care.
Two girls, ages 3 and 4, were removed from their mother’s care after a police investigation found “less than favorable conditions” at their apartment. No charges or arrests had been made in the case as of noon Thursday, but Waco Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton said “questionable circumstances” surrounding the reported kidnapping could lead to charges later.
“There are certainly a lot of questionable circumstances to this entire case and we will try to get to the true facts of what happened,” Swanton said. “Due to social media, immediate local news media coverage, and an issued Amber Alert, we received information that led us to the children. They were recovered and are safe.”
Police were initially called to the mother’s home at The Villages Apartments in the 1100 block of North Sixth Street at about 11:30 p.m. Wednesday, after the mother woke up and could not find her daughters, Swanton said. The mother told police she was home with her children and an acquaintance named “Chris” when she had fallen asleep at about 1 p.m., Swanton said. She said she awoke about 10 hours later and found “Chris” and her children missing, Swanton said.
Officers issued an Amber Alert for the reported abduction later that night. Officers searched the area and identified “Chris” as a man with local outstanding warrants unrelated to the family, but they determined he had no connection to the missing children, Swanton said.
Because of media coverage, a worker at a local day care spotted the alert and believed that the missing children were two children who were never picked up from the child care facility on Wednesday afternoon, Swanton said. Until that point, no one had notified police about the unrecovered children, but one worker took the children home, bathed them and decided to care for them throughout the night.
“That will be a part of the investigation as well,” Swanton said.
Police recovered the girls at the day care worker’s home and contacted Child Protective Services for additional investigation. Swanton declined to release the name of the day care Thursday.
After finding the apartment unsuitable for children, Child Protective Services workers got an emergency removal order to place the children into state custody early Thursday morning.
“Through the social media and media postings, the Amber Alert played an instrumental role in locating the children and that is exactly what they are designed to do,” Swanton said. “It was just fast-moving with lots of moving parts but everything came together to find the kids safe.”
Swanton said police are continuing to investigate the entire incident.