When we last checked in with DeAnn Mullins, she was gearing up for exciting changes at Mullins pharmacy. Then, the storms came.
Immediately after returning home from NCPA’s 2018 Annual Convention, Hurricane Michael swept through Florida. DeAnn made it back just in time to join her father and husband at Mullins Pharmacy to ride out the storm. After hours of terrifying weather, no communication with her daughters for three days, and no electricity for two weeks, DeAnn says, “After going through that, the PBMs just aren’t as scary as they used to be.” The Florida panhandle, now dubbed “The Forgotten Coast,” was left in a wake of destruction.
DeAnn’s neighborhood before and after Hurricane Michael
Photos courtesy of DeAnn Mullins
Although her home was miraculously untouched, sites like Mullins Pharmacy, the church where DeAnn got married, and 45,000 other structures were destroyed. The pharmacy was closed from October until January; meanwhile, DeAnn set up a temporary space in a friend’s house (pictured below). With the help of two dedicated technicians, they contacted patients by phone and Facebook and transferred 3,000 prescriptions. “We tried to do whatever we could to ease the burden, provide information, and basically love on our patients who often just needed someone to listen,” she remembers. The hurricane is over and the reconstruction is ongoing, but the overall healthcare scene in Lynn Haven has been dealt a huge blow.
Mullins Pharmacy reconstruction | Temporary workflow setup
Photos courtesy of DeAnn Mullins
According to DeAnn, 170 providers left their practices, and the ones that remain are operating in damaged, moldy spaces. One of the two county hospitals closed, leaving hundreds without jobs. This was an opportunity for DeAnn to practice her message of unity and aggregation in an unexpected way by leasing her building’s space to a local nurse practitioner and a physician. What formerly served as the 2,000 square foot education center at Mullins Pharmacy is now a medical clinic for the displaced providers. “Once the dust settles,” says DeAnn, “we hope to do some innovative collaboration.”
DeAnn anticipates the need for available clinicians will be greater than ever in her community due to the stress, chronic pain, and single-trauma PTSD that has been on the rise since the hurricane. She hopes to address these issues and more with her latest endeavor: Wildflower Apothecary. The pharmacy’s front-end was wiped out during the hurricane, which DeAnn optimistically calls “a clean slate.” This new area will be divided into sections based on categories such as sleep, weight loss, stress and anxiety, and expectant mothers. “I envision every product we sell to be tied to a wellness program where there’s education and support,” she explains. “This combination makes sense if you truly want to design a comprehensive and cohesive wellness solution.”
As a previous member of the NCPA leadership team, DeAnn has invested time, money, and spirit into the independent pharmacy industry. Now, she’s investing everything into her store while temporarily passing the torch to others in order to further the momentum. But, from her circumstances, she has noted how Mullins Pharmacy represents the thousands of community pharmacies across the nation. “A good indicator of the state of the industry is the fact that we actually chose to rebuild,” she observes. “Whether it’s naivety or stubbornness, we decided to make a comeback.” The store currently operates with half of its normal staff with a volume reduced by 50%, but DeAnn and her team choose to adapt rather than be consumed, a message she has repeated since her NCPA presidency.
Much like her personal climate of change and uncertainty, DeAnn sees the community pharmacy industry going through its own hurricanes and offers the same message she posted on Mullins’ closed doors last year:
Here’s to reinvention, unexpected options and the knowledge that we live in a community full of beautiful people who have pulled together.
We will survive. We have options. Beautiful ones.
The Forgotten Coast is only at the beginning of its restoration. If you would like to bring relief to those affected by Hurricane Michael and the other natural disasters of 2018, click here to contact your state’s members of Congress.
To donate directly to those affected most by the hurricane, visit hopepanhandle.org.