Editor’s Column: What we lose when we lose local

The news that Meeker was losing its independent, family-owned pharmacy, saddened me. 

I’m old enough to remember being able to call my family doctor at home late at night or on the weekends when we had a medical crisis and getting personal “telemedicine” the old-fashioned way. And there was rarely a bill that followed. I’m old enough to remember stories about former postmaster Dale Hallebach hand-delivering late packages on Christmas Eve. And in more recent days, I remember Meeker Drugs owner Diana Jones dropping off an emergency prescription at my house well after hours on a Friday. 

These kinds of personal stories are the ooey-gooey goodness that drive the plots of Hallmark movies, the appeal of the Cheers bar “where everybody knows your name,” and a precious commodity of small-town living we need to cherish and protect. 

I had no clue how complex it is to run a pharmacy—with a complicated scheme of insurance programs, benefit managers, plus Medicaid rules and more—until I started digging into the reason local pharmacies are disappearing. Every small business has its challenges behind the scenes, and they’re all different. As a business owner, I know how hard it is to tell your customers—who are also your friends and neighbors in a small town—that things are tough, whether it’s with finances or with staffing or logistics or your own health. Small, independent businesses are the backbone of our communities, and we should do what we can to protect them. 

We like to gripe a lot about “government overreach” and our loathing of “big government.” Government is easy to blame for all our woes. But “corporate overreach” might be even more dangerous to our way of life. The insurance and pharmaceutical industries are one example. The fact a mere handful of huge corporations control the meat-packing industry is another. I could go on, but I don’t have room. 

As I was told by some state lobbyists in a recent meeting, it’s a “pay to play” system if you want to have a voice at the legislative level. Money is the name of the game, and the big corporate overlords are the ones with the money. Who loses out? Family farms, small businesses, and anyone who gets in the way of corporate sprawl. It reminds me of the stories about the railroads being built, and families being run off their farms (or murdered in their beds) so the railroad could go through their land. We’re horrified by those tales from our nation’s history, and rightly so, yet we seem unable or unwilling to recognize the same processes at work today.

By NIKI TURNER – editor@ht1885.com