Soon people statewide will be able to receive contraceptive services at pharmacies without a prescription from another medical provider, including counseling and education from a pharmacist about options for contraception and other preventive services, dispensing of contraception and connection to ongoing care if needed.

State and local leaders attended an event on Tuesday, May 14, to recognize this milestone of improved access to contraception services during Women’s Health Week. This work is critical in addressing the rising maternal and infant mortality rates in North Carolina.

“Expanding access to reproductive health care improves health outcomes for mothers, babies and families in North Carolina,” said NC Health and Human Services Secretary Kody H. Kinsley. “Thanks to the many pharmacies across the state that stepped up to ensure the people in their communities have access to contraception, pre-natal vitamins and other health care resources they need to thrive.”

More than half of all pregnancies in North Carolina are unintended, which can unfortunately lead to poor maternal and infant outcomes. Expansion of contraceptive services improves the health of moms, babies and families across the state.

Retail and independent pharmacies in North Carolina are now providing contraceptive services in 84 counties across the state. To fill coverage gaps, Ingles Markets Pharmacies will begin contraceptive services at pharmacies in select counties in the western part of the state by the end of May 2024, and Walgreens will begin providing services in select counties in the central and eastern part of the state by the end of June 2024. This expanded access is particularly beneficial in rural areas that have fewer providers and are considered maternal health and contraceptive deserts. North Carolina residents can view the participating pharmacies closest to them using this map.

This statewide expansion builds upon prior work to ensure more families have access to access to reproductive health services. North Carolina Session Law 2021-110/HB 96 grants authority to pharmacists to prescribe a variety of contraception under protocols approved by the NC Board of Pharmacy and the NC Medical Board. NCDHHS has partnered with the UNC School of Pharmacy and the North Carolina Association of Pharmacists who have been leading efforts to support pharmacies adopting these protocols. NC Medicaid started enrolling pharmacists as providers and paying a counseling code in January 2024.