Youngstown’s Label as a ‘Pharmacy Desert’

Upon the recent closure of CVS Pharmacy on Park Avenue, many Youngstown State University students, faculty and Youngstown residents are left with no pharmacy resources to turn to in times of need.

A Mahoning Matters article stated the definition of a pharmacy desert is “a neighborhood in which most inhabitants live more than a mile away from a pharmacy, if people have access to private vehicles. That distance decreases to a half mile in neighborhoods where most people don’t own cars.”

The Mercy Health facility in downtown Youngstown made its private hospital pharmacy a part of the public sector just hours after hearing the unexpected news of the CVS closure.

With other health center facilities stepping up in the community, there are still pockets left unequipped, such as Youngstown State University.  

The university has a growing student population with a portion of the students unfamiliar with the Youngstown area. With no pop-up pharmacy center located on campus, this can potentially be a turnoff for prospective students. 

Discussions are underway for the Mercy Health walk-in clinic on the corner of Wick and Lincoln avenues to extend its services to better the students, staff and faculty at YSU, but what can be done to better assist urgent medical needs?

Providing a transportation service for students who are unable to get to the nearest pharmacy can eliminate the stress and worry placed on those in need of daily or monthly medications. 

Building a pop-up pharmacy on campus can add a new dimension to the university and attract more students and faculty to  downtown Youngstown.

Taking the time to narrow in on the neglected pockets of the community can help the Youngstown population grow and attract out-of-towners.

Downtown Youngstown is within miles of Trumbull County, with access to a nearby Walgreens and Giant Eagle.

For many students, their access to these facilities is limited, and they must rely on friends or family to access other pharmacies. 

Students who suffer from chronic illnesses rely heavily on their prescriptions and medical equipment. When those resources are taken away, several unnecessary obstacles can get in the way of having a successful academic education.

Haley Drennen is a sophomore pre-business major who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at 16 years old. Taking insulin multiple times a day through her insulin pump is a vital part of her survival. 

Drennen relies on her insulin pump 24/7, sometimes making it challenging to complete her schoolwork. 

Now that the CVS is closed on Park Avenue, Drennen is dependent on her mother to help pick up her monthly medications from the CVS Pharmacy in Niles.

While Drennen has a reliable source of transportation for her own medications, she fears for other students who are unable to travel to off-campus pharmacies. 

She recently founded the Youngstown chapter of the College Diabetes Network with intentions to spread awareness and understanding for the disease. Diabetics and nondiabetics are currently active in the YSU chapter to better understand the life-consuming disease.

Providing an alternative route for students to gain access to critical prescriptions is needed on campus now more than ever. 

For more information on how you can become a student member of the Youngstown chapter of the College Diabetes Network, email Haley Drennen at