CVS Closure Raises Concerns Within University Community

By Amanda Joerndt

Students who suffer from a chronic illness may need medical attention at unexpected times throughout their day. That’s where drug stores such as CVS Pharmacy can play a crucial role in Youngstown State University students’ and faculty’s daily routine. 

For Haley Drennen, a sophomore pre-business major, taking her daily insulin is vital for survival since she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at 16 years old. 

Drennen said she received her medications from CVS Pharmacy on Park Avenue, within walking distance of YSU. She relocated her prescriptions upon its recent closure. 

YSU students relied on the CVS pharmacy facility just within walking distance of the university. Now, many students will need to relocate to a different pharmacy for daily medications. Photo by Kamron Meyers/The Jambar.

“I moved all of my medications to a new CVS in Niles. … Actually, there’s no CVS near me where I currently live,” she said. “I actually asked my mother to pick it up on her way home from work when it’s there.” 

Drennen said one of her biggest concerns regarding insulin is the medication needs to be refrigerated at all times.

“I have a pump that continuously pumps insulin in [my body], and I also take multiple doses throughout the day depending on what I eat,” she said. “A Type 1 diabetic can actually die within 24 to 48 hours if they don’t have insulin.”

According to Drennen, YSU’s main concern should be providing a pharmacy for students that’s within the boundaries of the university.   

“I can’t imagine having to deal with Type 1 diabetes and then having to worry about taking the bus to get my medication,” she said. “I don’t know how I would ever have time for that, and if there are students who do that then that’s amazing. I know there’s multiple conditions where people need their medications daily.”

Drennen has relied on Disability Services in Kilcawley Center during her time at YSU and uses their resources in the case of a low blood sugar episode. 

“I’m registered with Disability Services not because it labels me, but it provides accommodations to me that can help me with being a student and a  Type 1 diabetic,” Drennen said. “It lets me send an email to my teacher if I’m driving in the morning and my blood sugar goes low.”

Drennen is the founder of the Youngstown chapter of the College Diabetes Network in hopes to bring awareness to the disease and provide a support group for other students that suffer from a chronic illness. 

“There’s about eight active students, but I have a mailing list of 22 students,” she said. “I think it provides an important group for them to come to if they need it.” 

YSU President Jim Tressel said the university is amid discussions about finding a space on campus for a pharmacy center.

“In my mind, the natural location would be Kilcawley Center, and if you could find a pop-up pharmacy just so we could have those services for our faculty, staff and students during normal work hours,” Tressel said. 

He said creating space for a new pharmacy can pose several challenges along the way.

The former CVS Pharmacy located on Park Avenue in Youngstown closed its doors this month. The signs were removed from the building at the beginning of the school year. Photo by Kamron Meyers/The Jambar.

“That’s the difficult part about making a pharmacy where CVS was. … There’s a lot of square footage, and the revenue obviously didn’t meet those expectations,” Tressel said. “As we’ve talked with some pharmacists, we’ve found that they only need maybe 500 to 800 square feet, not 14,000.” 

Just days later, the Mercy Health facility in downtown Youngstown opened its St. Elizabeth Hospital pharmacy to the public in response to the closure of CVS.

Ginger Berrie, director of retail pharmacies for the Great Lakes Group, said quick adjustments were made to convert the pharmacy to a public facility instead of a private sector. 

“We pretty much quickly understood the ramifications on the neighborhoods and access to pharmacies, so that was a quick huddle to say, ‘We are going to make sure that everyone can come to our pharmacy that needs to,’” she said. 

Berrie said the St. Elizabeth pharmacy can refill a variety of medications.

“The outpatient pharmacies in the hospital can discharge medications so we can fill anything, …  whether it’s short-term antibiotics or long-term blood pressure treatments,” she said. “But we’re not a pharmacy in the same respect as a CVS would be where we carry more snacks and sodas. … We are surely a pharmacy.” 

Jonathon Fauvie, public relations and communications manager at Mercy Health, said the pharmacy is placed in a convenient location inside the hospital for public use.

Wick Primary Care, the walk-in health clinic located on the corner of Fifth and Lincoln avenues on Youngstown State University’s
campus, plans to extend the services offered, but the plans are currently under review. Photo by Kamron Meyers/The Jambar

“Our current pharmacy is right inside the main lobby,” Fauvie said. “So, it’s not like you have to traverse through the facility to get to that.” 

Plans to extend services offered at the Mercy Health walk-in clinic on campus are under review, according to Fauvie. 

“As we continue to serve that student and faculty population, those will be indicators of what services are needed at that facility,” Fauvie said. “All of that is to be determined at this point.”

The Jambar reached out to the CVS Pharmacy located on Mahoning Avenue, and it declined to comment on the closure of the Park Avenue CVS.