Cleveland, OH,
12:51 PM

MetroHealth's main campus pharmacy is now a WIC vendor

The Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Supplemental Nutrition Program is crucial to improving the health of our community’s mothers and children.

The federally funded program, which is administered in Cuyahoga County by The MetroHealth System, provides food, health care referrals/screenings and nutrition education to qualifying women (pregnant, breastfeeding, postpartum) and children up to 5 years old.

Eligible women and children receive benefits at no cost. Those benefits are loaded onto a WIC card and can be used for specific food items and infant formula at authorized vendors (Discount Drug Mart, Marc’s, Giant Eagle, etc.).

Sometimes, infants who are admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) have unique nutrition requirements and need specialized products (high-protein formula, for example). These products are covered by WIC, but they’re sometimes very difficult to find on store shelves.

Well, they used to be difficult to find.

These specialized formulas are now conveniently available at the pharmacy in the Outpatient Plaza of our main campus on West 25th Street.

MetroHealth Medical Center is the first hospital in Ohio to have a WIC formula vendor onsite at its pharmacy. The pharmacy offers families that are enrolled in WIC the opportunity to get their specialized formula benefits at the same place they go for pediatric/specialty clinic appointments and WIC appointments.

Barb Riley, Director, Cuyahoga County WIC, says "we are excited with this opportunity for our families, which will help them to save time and reduce the stress of finding a specialized formula. It's a win-win."

This will be especially helpful to families like the Gambrels - they recently welcomed 5-month old twins Michael and Aryanna. The babies were born almost two months early and were cared for in the NICU. They both require specialized formulas for their nutritional needs as they develop and grow.

Mom Deadra Gambrel and her sister, Jamie Gambrel, learned of the new service at a recent appointment for twins. The family usually goes to Walmart or Giant Eagle to get specialized formulas, but those stores don't always have the products.

"Infants admitted to the NICU have specialized nutrition requirements either due to prematurity or significant disease states that require specialized infant nutrition products," explains Stephanie Merlino Barr, a neonatal nutritionist (pictured above). Babies tend to be on these specialized formulas for several months or even longer. And, these products can be difficult to find in stores.

"I have stories of families driving to three separate stores to find the specialized formulas they need," says Stephanie. "For our patient population -- where transportation can be an issue -- getting the product is another barrier to adequate care. A breakdown in access to appropriate nutrition can quickly turn into a crisis for an infant following a two- to three-month NICU stay."

This allows our tiniest patients, our NICU “graduates,” to get care at our Preemie Clinic and get their specialized formula – all in one trip.

Since regular formula is easier to find in stores, for now the MetroHealth pharmacy only stocks the following specialized formulas:

  • Similac Human Milk Fortifier
  • Similac Special Care 24 kcal/oz. for Premature Infants
  • Similac NeoSure
  • Similac Alimentum
  • Elecare

"We're hopeful that we'll expand to other MetroHealth pharmacies where there is a WIC clinic so that patients will have more access to these products," Stephanie says.

Click here to learn more about the WIC program at MetroHealth.

About the MetroHealth System

Founded in 1837, MetroHealth is leading the way to a healthier you and a healthier community through service, teaching, discovery, and teamwork. Cuyahoga County’s public, safety-net hospital system, MetroHealth meets people where they are, providing care through five hospitals, four emergency departments and more than 20 health centers. Each day, our nearly 9,000 employees focus on providing our community with equitable healthcare — through patient-focused research, access to care, and support services — that seeks to eradicate health disparities rooted in systematic barriers. For more information, visit