💊 Ocean County has the state's highest senior population

💊 Two Rite Aid closed without notice in Ocean County in October

💊 Commissioner Joe Vicari wants the state to implement simple closing guidelines

The sudden closure of drug stores in Ocean County has raised concern with county commissioner director Joe Vicari that seniors will be left with few options.

Ocean County is also home to the most seniors in the state with a population of 200,000 that swells to 1.3 million during the summer, Vicari told New Jersey 101.5.

"It's not only senior citizens there's also young children," Vicari said.

Rite Aid stores on Route 37 in Toms River and Lacey Road in the Whiting section of Manchester, shut their doors with little notice to customers. The Whiting closure impacted seniors especially hard with at least a half dozen 55+ communities.

"We have a large population of seniors aged 85 and older. Many of these men and women depend on prescription medications to keep them healthy and active. They cannot tolerate any disruption to these important medicines," Vicari said.

Vicari said prescriptions are automatically moved to another location which can be a major inconvenience.

"It could be 10 or 15 miles away and it's very, very difficult because our seniors, many are over 85 years old, do not drive or have difficulty driving at certain times," Vicari said, adding the county does not have a lot of public transportation options, small pharmacies that delivered are long gone and many seniors simply cannot afford a cell phone.

Ocean County Commissioner
Ocean County Commissioner (Tom Mongelli)

Advance notice for closing

Vicari, who is not seeking re-election after 43 years of public service, has written a letter to Gov. Phil Murphy seeking 60 days notice be given of a pharmacy's closing so they can move their prescription to a location of their choosing. A phone number posted on the door so customers can talk to someone is another suggestion by Vicari.

A pharmacist is also a key part of helping seniors stay healthy.

"They also give flu shots, they give COVID-19 shots, they also do other things besides being a pharmacist," Vicari said.

Having medication delivered by mail is not always a viable solution as heat and cold can cut a medication's potency.

Ocean County
Ocean County (Google maps)

Vicari said that the county wants to help come up with a solution as there is not a "one size fits all" for the 200,000 seniors in 96 communities.

"Each one is very different and very unique. What happens in one part of the county doesn't happen in another," Vicari said. "We want to keep our people happy. And this could possibly be a life-threatening situation."

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