In April several local residents received letters from their health insurance companies suggesting two ways to save money. The first was to switch to mail-order prescriptions for 90-day supplies of medicine or simply pick up the prescription at the local CVS pharmacy.

The latter option offers Idyllwild residents the convenience of driving more than 20 miles to pick up a prescription. The former option offers the convenience of saving a few steps, depending on where they park in the Strawberry Plaza lot.

The Idyllwild Pharmacy and the Idyllwild Post Office are at opposite ends of the same building in the shopping center.

The local pharmacy is not endangered, according to owner Barry Shapiro, a second-generation pharmacist. However, the major health plans and health benefit companies, whose marketing is directed at urban and suburban markets, are creating significant challenges for Shapiro and the local pharmacy’s long-term health.

Idyllwild has only had a pharmacy for about 35 years. Whether they have young children or are retirees, most of the local population depend upon the Idyllwild Pharmacy.

The mail-order prescription effort is a major example of a convenience for urban shoppers that doesn’t meet Idyllwild conditions. For some people, particularly those whose mobility is limited, prescriptions, which arrive by mail, are a benefit. One doesn’t have to leave their house in order or to pick it up.

That benefit doesn’t exist in Idyllwild. There is no home mail delivery. The pharmacy and post office share the same building. They are just steps away from each other.

Secondly, occasionally mail-order prescriptions are delayed or lost. What do people then do? Here, they come to Shapiro and request an emergency prescription until their mail-order meds arrive. Not to mention, most prescriptions can be filled the same day or overnight.

Another concern is the medical waste generated by 90-day prescriptions. Unused drugs have become a national problem. In urban areas, pouring them down the toilet means the water is intercepted at a waste treatment plant. In Idyllwild, it often results in entering the groundwater through septic systems.

Shapiro recently created a program for residents to dispose of unneeded medical drugs.

The solution over the mail order issue is to contact your health insurance provider and explain why this option threatens your local pharmacy and eventually you and your family. This tactic has been successful before.

Jerry Holldber, Pine Cove Water District general manager, spoke up to the district’s carrier a few years ago and they changed a rule which was hurting Shapiro’s ability to serve Idyllwild.

“Be proactive, go to your health benefits person at work and explain the situation,” Shapiro urged. “If we need an exception, they’ll abide by it.”