Rural pharmacies fill a health care gap in the US. Owners say it’s getting harder to stay open

June 7, 2024  -Basin Pharmacy fills more than prescriptions in rural northern Wyoming. It’s also the key health care access point for the town of about 1,300 people and the surrounding area.

It sells catheters, colostomy supplies and diabetic testing strips. The storage room contains things that people rely on to survive, such as a dozen boxes of food for patients who must eat through tubes. The pharmacy fills prescriptions in bulk for the county jail, state retirement center and youth group homes. Some patients come from Jackson, five hours away by car, for the specialized services.

Pharmacist Craig Jones makes house calls when no one else can, answers his phone at all hours of the night and stops to chat about bowel movements at church. Yet Jones keeps a pile of his own paychecks on a desk in the back of his pharmacy. Four months’ worth, uncashed.

“Every year, it’s a little worse,” Jones said of the financial pressures on his business.

Rural pharmacies, independent or chain, can be a touchstone for their communities. The staff knows everyone’s names and drugs, answers questions about residents’ mail-order prescriptions or can spot the signs of serious illness.

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