How one pharmacy survived the Baltimore riots

June 28, 2016

Pharmacist Maisha McCoy will never forget those tense days in late April 2015, when rioting and looting were widespread throughout Baltimore.

Pharmacist Maisha McCoy will never forget those tense days in late April 2015 following the death of Freddie Gray, when accusations of police brutality led to rioting and widespread looting throughout Baltimore.

Her independent pharmacy Breathe 4 Sure (doing business as Pharmacy Solutions, LLC) continued operating throughout the chaos, despite the fact that it was one of many pharmacies targeted for looting and lost about $100,000 in inventory.

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Gov. Larry Hogan and pharmacist Maisha McCoyMcCoy, the pharmacy’s owner, quietly continued filling scripts for loyal patients, around 100, through a bar above the building’s broken window. She didn’t want to draw attention to the customers who were visiting the store because she was afraid they would face violence. So, patients picked up their scripts one-by-one.

“We retained around three-quarters of our customers because we never really stopped [operating],” McCoy recalled.

Even if they were not previous Pharmacy Solutions’ customers, “when the word got out I still had maintenance drugs, I helped some of the people in the community who couldn’t get out to get their medications,” McCoy said.

 

Now, with the riot in the past, McCoy is beginning to see the light–literally. The pharmacy recently re-opened after installing new windows and doors. “We are in a much better position now than before the riot,” she said. “With the renovation, it is nice and bright inside.”

The City of Baltimore gave the pharmacy a grant for new roll-down windows and doors, and the pharmacy also received an economic loan through the state.  Plus, Governor Larry Hogan’s office recently gave the pharmacy a grant for improvements to the exterior of the store. McCoy plans to use that money for lights and awnings.

McCoy wants to work with local high schools to create an apprenticeship program, designed to help students learn about the pharmacy business and entrepreneurship. She also plans to add screenings services through the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

“Coming back, we really need to implement screenings for some of the epidemics in the community, such as hepatitis, HIV and syphilis, along and blood sugar and blood-pressure screenings,” she said.

She also hopes her pharmacy can spur other improvements throughout the community. “There is so much land around here. I am looking at some vacant land to adopt that can be used for a community garden,” she said.