BOSTON (WHDH) - Despite protests from Boston to Washington, D.C., a Roxbury Walgreens closed permanently Wednesday.
The Warren Street location will be the fourth to close in less than two years, joining pharmacies in Mattapan, Hype Park, and another in Roxbury.
“With Walgreens’ goal to be the independent partner of choice, not just in pharmacy but also in healthcare services where we can improve healthcare, lower costs, and help patients, we need the right network of stores,” a Walgreens corporate spokesperson said in a statement. “When faced with the difficult decision to close a location, several factors are taken into account, including our existing footprint of stores, dynamics of the local market, and changes in the buying habits of our patients and customers, among other reasons.”
The company spokesperson said Walgreens previously announced plans to close 200 stores across the country, and pointed to the “several hundred stores in Massachusetts” including 15 in the Boston area.
“It’s not fair to the community”
Community members said they feel abandoned by the closing, which leaves them without nearby access to similar products and services.
“Basically the only pharmacy in Roxbury is closing,” said Roxbury resident Jennifer Smith-Workman.
“You’ve got a lot of elderly people in this neighborhood,” another resident said. “It really needs this Walgreens. It stinks, it’s not fair to the community.”
Boston Mayor Michelle Wu said the store shuttering will make it harder for residents to get their necessary medicine.
“As budgets get cut, sometimes in the corporate side it is communities who have the least other options of where to get their medications filled where the pharmacies are closing,” Wu said.
Washington weighs in
On the floor of the U.S. House Representatives Tuesday, Rep. Ayanna Pressley called out Walgreens for “divesting from Black and brown communities.”
Roxbury is 85% Black and Latino.
“When a Walgreens leaves a neighborhood, they disrupt the entire community and they take with them baby formula, diapers, asthma inhalers, life-saving medications, and, of course, jobs,” Pressley said on the floor. “These closures are not arbitrary and they are not innocent. They are life-threatening acts of racial and economic discrimination.”
Earlier in the month, Pressley, along with Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, sent a letter to Walgreens CEO Tim Wentwroth urging him not to close the Warren Street Walgreens.
“Closing yet another Walgreens will make it harder for people in these communities to get essential medications, household goods, and groceries,” the letter read. “Many community members rely on the 416 Warren Street Walgreens to pick up their prescriptions or purchase essential products such as over-the-counter medications, first aid materials, diapers and baby formula, personal care products, and groceries.”
Nearest Walgreens a 20-minute walk
In its closure notice, Walgreens said it would transfer patient files to a location one mile away, which Pressley, Warren, and Markey pointed out can present a significant hurdle for vulnerable populations within the commmunity.
“The closure notification provides little notice to community members, including seniors, to find alternatives for getting their medications and essential products,” they wrote in their letter. “For residents who don’t have access to reliable transportation, seniors, and people with mobility limitations, an additional mile to access lifesaving medication such as inhalers or insulin could be insurmountable, even deadly.”
Of the Walgreens locations that have closed in Boston recently, the representative and senators said they have occured “exclusively in predominantly Black and Latino neighborhoods”, part of what they identify as a “larger pattern” of closures.
“We remain committed to our patients in the Roxbury community and want to help them through this transition,” the spokesperson said.
To this end, the company is providing customers with free automatic transfer of prescriptions to the Walgreens store at 1890 Columbus Ave., along with 90 days of free same day delivery of prescriptions and a “wide range of available products”, waiving the $35 minimum they typically require.
Warren and Markey said they are willing to work with Walgreens so the community is not abandoned.
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