Little Village neighbors denounce plans to close pharmacy CVS

Little Village community members gathered on Friday to ask CVS to reconsider its decision to close its neighborhood pharmacy, saying residents would need to travel far and wide to get their prescriptions.

The store, at 2634 S. Pulaski Road, is expected to close on June 7, CVS Health confirmed.

22nd District Ald. Michael Rodríguez said his office received “several phone calls, mainly from elderly people in the neighborhood, concerned about where they are going to fulfill their prescriptions.” He said he learned of the closure several weeks ago.

“We don’t want to see another business ruined in our community,” he said.

Rodríguez’s office asked CVS to reconsider closing the pharmacy in a May 18 letter signed by local elected officials, including US Representative Jesus “Chuy” Garcia and State Senator Celia Villanueva, as well as community and health organizations, including Enlace Chicago, Howard Brown Health, Instituto del Progreso Latino and St. Anthony and Sinai Chicago.

The letter notes that the nearest CVS pharmacy is in Cicero, about 2 ½ miles from the Little Village location. Residents of the car-free neighborhood will need to take a bus or two to buy their prescriptions, the letter said.

In a statement, CVS Health said that all on-site prescriptions will be transferred to its Cicero store, and that patients may also choose to transfer to other CVS pharmacies. The company declined to comment on how many prescriptions it fills at the Little Village location.

“Maintaining access to pharmacy services in historically underserved communities is an important factor we consider when making store closure decisions,” the company said in a statement. “Other factors include local market dynamics, cultural and language barriers, consumer buying patterns, a community’s store density, and ensuring that there are other geographic access points to meet community needs, including COVID-19 testing and vaccinations. 19.”

There is a Walgreens pharmacy down the street from Little Village CVS at 26th Street and PulaskiRoad. But some patients won’t be able to transfer their medications there due to CVS-owned Aetna’s decision to pull Walgreens out of its Medicaid Aetna Better Health of Illinois network in December 2020.

At the time, critics of Aetna’s decision told the Tribune that the decision was affecting poor, black-majority neighborhoods on the south and west sides of the city. Aetna said in a December 2020 statement that the decision “did not create or contribute to network access issues.”

“We meet or exceed all state access requirements for managed care organizations,” the Aetna statement said. “In fact, the Illinois Department of Health and Family Services has reviewed our updated network and determined that it ensures equity.”

Last year, CVS announced it would close 900 stores in the US within three years. In a statement on Friday, the company said it was in the process of transferring employees from Little Village CVS to other stores. Currently, the chain has about 70 locations in Chicago.

“The organizations I represent believe that health care is a human right,” said Anne Scheetz, of the Physicians for a National Health Program Illinois and the Illinois Single-Payer Coalition, speaking at Friday’s press conference. “That it is not a commodity available only to those who have money.”

Scheetz said he lives in Logan Square and that there are four CVS pharmacies within walking distance of his home. “They’re adding stores in wealthy neighborhoods,” she said. “And they are closing these neighborhoods. This is not right.”

The closure was announced during “the context of a worldwide pandemic that continues to rage,” said Raoul Contreras of the Mi Villita Neighbors group.

Speakers on Friday noted that Little Village has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, CEP 60623, which includes the neighborhood, had the highest number of virus-related deaths in Cook County.

Jesús Del Toro, a spokesperson for Garcia, said Friday that the congressman hosted a meeting with CVS’s federal affairs teams “to convey the concerns of Little Village community members and health advocates about the announced closure.” .

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