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'Pharmacy deserts,' Walgreens stores in Roxbury, Mattapan and Hyde Park closing

Walgreens closing pharmacies in Roxbury, Mattapan and Hyde Park
Walgreens closing pharmacies in Roxbury, Mattapan and Hyde Park 02:57

By Courtney Cole, WBZ-TV

BOSTON - People in three Boston communities are going to lose access to their pharmacies as Walgreens plans to close stores in Roxbury, Hyde Park and Mattapan this week.

It begins Tuesday in Roxbury when the store on Washington Street shuts down.

Walgreens is re-directing their customers to other locations. In Roxbury, for example, a sign on the door tells customers to go to their location on 416 Warren Street. However, getting there might not be so simple, as 2020 Census re-districting data for Boston said 44% of residents in Roxbury don't have a vehicle.

According to Google Maps, getting to that location means a bus ride that will be at least 14 minutes one-way, or a walk of at least 22 minutes, one way. Residents in Hyde Park and Mattapan face a similar issue, with 16.2% of residents without access to a vehicle in Hyde Park and 27.1% in Mattapan.

"I was in the hospital, and when I came home, I found out they were closing," said Elizabeth Harris.

"They gave us a blue paper-- I got it in there-- they passed it out. They said they're going to close down," said Shelby Orr.

Neighbors in Roxbury are feeling blindsided by the announcement that their local Walgreens will be closing its doors.

"I mean, I got some of my medicine yesterday, thank God!" exclaimed Harris.

But those who did not do the same, will now have to pick up their prescriptions at a different location.

"This is going to be bad for the seniors," said Stephanie Thomas.

"I gotta find out where the next nearest Walgreens pharmacy is," Harris told WBZ.

In addition to the Roxbury Walgreens on 2275 Washington Street closing on Tuesday, November 8th, the location on 1329 Hyde Park Avenue in Hyde Park is set to close on Wednesday, November 9th and the location on 90 River Street in Mattapan is set to close on Thursday, November 10th.

"I noticed things don't stay where we are at so long. Everything goes, you get used to it for a little bit," said Thomas. She's a long-time resident of Roxbury, since 1954.

"A lot of the stores that I knew as a little girl growing up--they're all gone," said Thomas.

WBZ reached out directly to Walgreens to learn why the locations are closing.  

"As we expand as a leader in healthcare, we are focused on best meeting the needs of patients and customers in communities we serve by creating the right network of stores in the right locations. When faced with the difficult task of closing a particular location, several factors are taken into account, including things like the dynamics of the local market and changes in the buying habits of our patients and customers, for example," a spokesperson told WBZ.

"In most cases, patients do not need to take any action. We automatically transfer their pharmacy files to the nearest Walgreens. Patients receive notice about any changes through mail and other means to provide details about continued access to their prescriptions and other services."

Boston City Councilor, Brian Worrell of District 4, which includes Mattapan, sent a statement via-email, saying:

"I was recently informed that Walgreens intends to close its location on 90 River Street," said Councilor Worrell. "This facility serves so many people in Mattapan, especially elderly providing them the necessary medication they need every day. My team is gathering more information to hear what impact this will have to the surrounding area. We will be releasing more information soon to help you and your families navigate the best options for getting prescriptions and accessing nearby pharmacies."

Julia Mejia, a Boston City Councilor At-Large, wants residents to know that she understands the frustration around what's happening.

"This abrupt shutting down of these pharmacies are going to create pharmacy deserts in our communities," Mejia said. "We already have a hard enough time getting the medical prescriptions that we need. Now we're going to have find other spaces and places to be able to have access to life-saving medication."

Mejia said at the end of the day, it's Black and brown communities that are being targeted.

"And there's something to be said about why it's important for us, as a council, to lean on this issue and figure out what we can do to create alternative means for these folks who are going to be deeply impacted by this."

But Mejia wants residents to know--all hope is not lost.

"If this the fate of the Walgreens in Roxbury--then what can we do to support the smaller mom-and-pop pharmacies--that are owned by people of color? So, it's really all in how we choose to experience this," Mejia said. "I like to always remain positive. Even in these times, that these sort of things can provide opportunities for Black and brown businesses to be able to thrive. And also opportunities for people to be able to open up delivery options for others."

Kornfield Pharmacy, located in Roxbury, is one of the local pharmacies welcoming residents now, hoping to help fill-in the gap.

However, some residents are hoping something else will go in place of the Walgreens -- perhaps a store that will provide convenience items and still be affordable. 

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