Lewis partners with Horizon to open pharmacy depot

BLINDS ARE DRAWN and the street outside Rafferty Robbins Pharmacy stood empty earlier this week after the business closed. While the closure was not unexpected, it left the town of Howard without a pharmacy. Lewis Drug and Horizon Health Care are partnering to address the need.

When Rafferty Robbins Drug in Howard closed its doors, no one was surprised. For months, Lewis Drug in Madison has been filling prescriptions for Howard residents, according to Kaylee Amundson, pharmacy operations manager for Lewis Drug.

"We're just looking out for the patients and giving them better access to their medications," she said.

Details surrounding the closure are shrouded in shadow. The store simply failed to open one morning and a sign in the window says "Closed." Owner Jerry Johnson has not returned calls, and the business phone is answered by a message system that indicates the store has closed permanently.

"There are a lot of rumors going around, but nobody has any facts," deputy finance officer Donna Klinkhammer said when Howard city offices were called.

Howard Mayor Donald Arens declined to comment, and Randy Perry of Howard Industries referred questions to Horizon Health Care.

Horizon CFO Wade Erickson said the closure "was pretty sudden" and noted any closure in a rural community is hard to see. However, he also indicated Horizon Health Care has been working with patients to transfer their prescriptions.

"We worked with Lewis in Madison quite closely through this whole situation," Erickson said.

Prior to the closing, Howard area patients either received their medications through the mail or drove to Madison to pick them up. Since the closure, another option is being developed.

"We are setting up a pharmacy depot, a drop-off site," Erickson said.

South Dakota Board of Pharmacy, a licensing board under the S.D. Department of Health, allows pickup sites in rural communities to make prescription medications more accessible, according to Amundson.

"We're going through an approval process now," she said.

The depot will be open when the clinic is open beginning next Monday. Those hours are 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Prescription deliveries will be made daily to Howard. This will eliminate the need for patients to make the drive to Madison.

"It will be a convenience factor, especially in the wintertime," Erickson said.

With two pharmacies in Madison, one on Washington Avenue and one in the clinic, Amundson does not anticipate any difficulties in meeting the expanded demand. Lewis Drug already increased its services in 2019 when Shopko closed and the regional chain purchased Shopko's pharmacy files. Amundson's confidence is based on the pharmacy's ability to fill prescriptions in a timely manner thus far.

"We've already been filling the majority of Howard prescriptions," she said.

Erickson said that like Lewis Drug, Horizon Health Care is focused on meeting patient needs. He is not aware of any plans to reopen a pharmacy in Howard but said Horizon would "listen and help in any way" they can should such discussions occur.