If you were distraught when local pharmacy Cloney’s in McKinleyville closed last year, you can now find joy in the fact that a new locally owned pharmacy will soon open in the old Cloney’s location to fill the void left in the community’s hearts.
Redwood Community Pharmacy – co-owned by pharmacists Dr. Christie Bobowski, Dr. Ethan Decota, Dr. Justin Otting and business manager Jen Otting – will officially open in the McKinleyville Shopping Center next week, giving McKinleyville residents another option for filling their pharmaceutical needs.
McKinleyville only has two other pharmacies, CVS and Rite Aid, and the owners of Redwood Community Pharmacy say they were fed up with the long lines and the lack of service provided by the chains. Dr. Otting was previously employed at CVS, and said that, especially since COVID, the pharmacy department was severely short-staffed, causing employees to work very long hours. And the issues at the McKinleyville CVS only worsened when Cloney’s closed down and the CVS pharmacy took over all of Cloney’s orders.
“It was just overwhelming,” Otting told the Outpost in a recent interview. “The prescription count doubled overnight…We would go in an hour and a half before opening, work all day, maybe get a 20 or 30 minute lunch break in there. A typical work day would be 14 hours.”
And because of the staffing issues, Otting added, he and other pharmacists would often have to complete clerks’ duties that ideally should not fall on the pharmacists’ shoulders, such answering the phones, working the drive-throughs and ringing people out. When pharmacists have to spend time on these other tasks, “they spend less time consulting with their patients,” Otting said.
Of course, the patients also suffered with the closure of Cloney’s, and many of them were not even informed beforehand that their prescriptions had been taken over by another pharmacy, Otting said. The overwhelming level of orders and short staffing also resulted in customers having less consultation time with their pharmacists, having longer wait times in line, longer hold times when they call (if they can get through on the phone at all) and a generally lower level of customer service and care.
By opening Redwood Community Pharmacy, the team hopes to take the pressure off of the other pharmacies and provide the community with a higher level of care than they can find at the bigger chain pharmacies. Redwood Community will also provide customer services, such as delivery and med packing, that Cloney’s provided.
Redwood Community will have a full-time delivery driver on staff and will provide delivery anywhere between Trinidad and Eureka. Delivery is free for anywhere within a seven-mile radius of the pharmacy. If you fall outside of that radius, there is a delivery fee of $3.99. Because there will only be one delivery driver (at least at first), orders will be coordinated so that the driver doesn’t have to make multiple deliveries to the same area each day.
The pharmacy also plans to offer med packing, which means the pharmacists will combine and prepackage customers’ prescriptions into labeled calendar packets, similar to the way birth control pills are labeled. This way, rather than have a bunch of individual bottles to keep track of, a person can have all their daily medications in one place and be able to clearly see if they have or haven’t taken them. This service is especially helpful for the elderly, or people that suffer from schizophrenia, or some other chronic brain disorder that makes it difficult for them to remember if they have taken their medications, Bobowski explained.
Another service Redwood Community Pharmacy will offer is compounding – a practice where a licensed pharmacist mixes, combines or alters the ingredients of a drug or drugs, to create a medication specifically tailored to the individual’s needs. “So, if you want, like, a certain kind of pain cream that isn’t available from big pharma, Justin can make it for you,” Bobowski said.
Aside from providing all of the services of a more traditional pharmacy, Bobowski and Otting said that it is also important to them to be able to take the time to consult with their patients, to answer people’s questions and address their concerns. If your insurance provider doesn’t cover your medication, they want to work with you to find a suitable alternative or to come up with a payment plan to fit your needs. If you have questions about your medications, they want you to be able to call your pharmacists, rather than having to call your doctor. Because, after all, a pharmacist is supposed to be the most knowledgeable expert when it comes to medications.
“We really care about people and about taking care of them, which is why we went into pharmacy in the first place,” Bobowski said. “We’re really hoping that in the community and in McKinleyville that we become the first thing you think of when something is going wrong [with their medication] and we’ll be able to give them good advice about what to do and really help them.”
Redwood Community Pharmacy officially opens for business on June 8 and will have a grand opening event on July 9 with food, games and raffles.