SUNBURY — The crowd of people, some enjoying a glass of wine, made it look like a typical weekend at Spyglass Ridge Winery on Saturday.
What was different, however, is that the visitors were there to register for the state’s medical marijuana program with the assistance of Omni Patient Advocates, a top provider in medical marijuana certifications.
Omni has held clinics across the state, but the visit to Spyglass was its first, and came about when the company approached winery owner Tom Webb.
“My exact words were, if we can help one person in the area we live in with this (clinic) — one person with PTSD, one person with MS, one person with seizures or cancer — then it’s worth it,” said Webb.
The popularity of the winery and its summer rock concerts have produced 17,000 Facebook followers and more than 20,000 email subscribers, so Webb, who announced his candidacy for Northumberland County commissioner in December, was confident the event would prove worthy for Omni. The company’s Pennsylvania headquarters is in Camp Hill.
Personal tragedy drives co-owner
Omni Patient Advocate co-owner Donnamarie Freedman said she was thankful for the opportunity to reach a more rural area.
“We try to go to the patient rather than the patient having to come to us,” she said. “It’s amazing to be able to help people and give them a better quality of life.”
Freedman has been an advocate of medical marijuana, taking part in the fight in Harrisburg for legalization and giving speeches about her son, Marine Cpl. Dane Freedman, who committed suicide at age 25.
Dane Freedman was a machine gunner in the Marine Corp Reserves, serving one tour in Afghanistan and one in Iraq. He returned home suffering from PTSD, which was treated through the Department of Veterans Affairs with 21 pills a day.
Freedman said following her son’s death, she learned he spent two days trying to get marijuana to help him, but when he couldn’t find it, he turned to alcohol for the first time in more than two years. One night in 2013, he shot himself in the heart.
“This is why I do this,” she said of her advocacy.
“I’ve met a lot of people with PTSD, opioid dependence, heroin addiction, and we’ve seen medical marijuana work miracles,” she said. “We’ve seen it change people’s lives.”
About two hours into the event, Webb said Freedman walked up to him and said they were overwhelmed by the “unbelievable amount of people that have shown up.”
Approximately 30 people, many with family or friends accompanying them, went through the process of becoming registered for medical marijuana. The turnout required about a two-hour wait time, extending the clinic’s time well beyond its 1 to 4 p.m. schedule.
Freedman said patients are first registered through the Department of Health (DOH) to guarantee their information is filled out correctly. They then register with Omni and pay a flat fee of $225 for an office visit before seeing a licensed doctor, who determines if they have one of the 21 qualifying conditions required by the state to participate in the program.
After approval from the doctor, advocates help the patients log back into their DOH portal to pay a $50 registration fee for their card.
Freedman said unlike many doctors, Omni provides patients with a 12-month certification. Patients have shared stories of required doctor visits every three months to become re-certified for the program, which result in paying out more money to continue participating in the medical marijuana program.
A representative of a medical marijuana dispensary is available at every Omni clinic to answer questions and display packaging for certain products — but not the products themselves — so patients will know what to expect when they visit a dispensary.
Kathleen Dunkelberger, of Keystone Center of Integrative Wellness, which operates a clinic in Williamsport, was on hand with sample packaging to show patients what they would receive is truly considered medication. She said displaying the packaging shows patients the medication comes in different forms. She referred further press questions to CEO Krista Krebs, who was unable to be reached by phone Saturday.
February clinic set
For those who missed Saturday’s event, Spyglass will host Omni for another clinic from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 13.
Webb said the Omni has been invited to set up a tent at this year’s outdoor concerts at Spyglass — which attracted more than 15,000 people combined last year — to provide information to potential patients.
Set to perform on June 28 is The Marshall Tucker Band with the Outlaws and Molly Hatchet, and Get the Lead Out will be back in September. Go to www.spyglassridgewinery.com for more information.
To learn more about Omni Patient Advocates and to keep up to date on upcoming local events, go to https://omnipatientadvocates.com.