Filling prescriptions in a flood-ravaged town

Fourth-year pharmacy student works 12-hour days at Estes Park pharmacy in wake of storm

September 19, 2013

Roads are cracked in Estes Park, where a CU Denver pharamacy student is serving as a visiting pharmacist

Fourth-year pharmacy student Steven Merrill found himself amid a town in crisis when last week’s flood hit Estes Park, where he’s been an interning pharmacist, with brutal force.

Merrill has been doing a rotation at Rocky Mountain Pharmacy, one of Estes Park’s two pharmacies. On Thursday and Friday, the worst days of the storm, none of Rocky Mountain’s licensed pharmacists could get to work because they all live down the mountain in Loveland, Longmont and other cities. “No one could get to Estes Park because the flooding knocked out the roads,” Merrill said. “… The whole town was under water and a lot of people had to be evacuated by helicopter.”

Merrill, who is living in a high-ground studio apartment in Estes Park provided by his preceptor, was able to get to the pharmacy and tell patients that they’d need to fill prescriptions next door at Safeway. “So for the first two days (of the flood) everyone went to Safeway, and they were slammed. It was crazy over there.”

One of Rocky Mountain’s pharmacists made it up the hill on Saturday and the pharmacy reopened that afternoon. Phone lines and the Internet were still down, however, making it difficult to communicate with patients. Because deliveries couldn’t reach the pharmacy the first few days, some patients were given a several-day supply until more medications arrived.

“Normally I’d work an eight-hour day and have the weekend off, but these last few days have been pretty crazy, so I’ve been working 12-hour days,” Merrill said.

Fourth-year pharmacy students in the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences perform rotations at pharmacies across Colorado. Merrill was in the fifth-week of his six-week rotation at Rocky Mountain Pharmacy when the storm hit.

Early this week, communications were restored and some roads reopened, clearing the path for vital medical shipments. Now Estes Park, along with countless other Front Range communities, begins the massive task of cleanup and rebuilding.

“The people have been great,” Merrill said of the mountain community. “They have offered visiting pharmacists a place to stay, have volunteered and are cleaning up the town and really pitching in.”

(Photo: Road damage is extensive in Estes Park, where fourth-year pharmacy student Steven Merrill has been performing a rotation in one of the town’s two pharmacies. Photo courtesy of Steven Merrill.)