Gary has lost four pharmacies in recent years, and now the city is in talks with three of the nation's largest pharmacy chains about bringing back service.
Walgreens shuttered three of its four Gary locations, including the Miller pharmacy in July. CVS announced last week it purchased Fagen Pharmacy and would close the Miller location, leaving only the pharmacy on Broadway in Midtown open. Fagen itself pulled out of downtown Gary a few years ago, making it more difficult for seniors living in nearby residential towers who had walked there and often lacked other means of transportation.
"Our concern is we want to make sure every neighborhood in the city of Gary, every community, is serviced," Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said. "There are serious concerns."
She and other city officials have been in talks with CVS and Rite Aid about opening new locations, and with Walgreens about potentially allowing another pharmacy to come in and rent the now-shuttered location at 801 Lake St. it operated for a decade, which it usually doesn't do.
"We've actually been discussing that with Walgreens," she said. "They've indicated their willingness to work with us. They're not going to be as hard-and-fast on the property."
City officials are especially concerned about the potential impact to seniors and the disabled.
"It's extremely important to our seniors because they don't have as much opportunity to travel, to get medicine," Freeman-Wilson said. "They don't have as much access to transportation. Not only our seniors, but our disabled. Fagen Pharmacy had been in walking distance of a number of members of the disabled community."
Eric Reaves, vice president of the Miller Citizens Corp., said he learned after a discussion with Walgreens about saving the Miller location that a thorny issue was that there weren't enough prescriptions covered by private health insurance plans in the neighborhood. He said he believed more market-value housing in Miller could help bring national corporate chains like Walgreens back.
Freeman-Wilson said a number of options were possible to restore pharmacy service to the city of about 80,000 residents.
"At this juncture there are a lot of possibilities because nothing's been determined yet," Freeman-Wilson said. "One of the things we've discussed is an independent pharmacy. We're reaching out to Rite Aid now that Walgreens and Ride Aid aren't doing that merger."