(WIVB) – Neighborhood pharmacies across New York say the state could put many of them out of business by cutting them off from state-run group homes.

Operators say the state is shifting the group home business to a national pharmacy retailer.

The state office for people with developmental disabilities is making the changeover.

Until recently, group homes run by OPWDD were allowed to buy their medications from the closest or best pharmacy nearby- but now the state seems to be narrowing those choices to one company.

Independent pharmacies across New York — like Upstate Pharmacy in West Seneca — have been faithfully filling prescriptions and delivering them to state-operated group homes for years.

That changed in 2015, when the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities contracted with Omnicare, a national chain owned by CVS.

“In 2019, the state invited us to be on the same contract as omnicare. so we did whatever we needed to do as far as beefing up our insurances, complying with everything that was on the contract,” Ted Kuzniarek, Upstate Pharmacy owner, said.

Kuzniarek told News 4 that when the contract with Omnicare expired last year, the state did not put out a new bid, which could spell doom for the smaller independent pharmacies.

“They said they would just carry over the providers so that they did not carry over any local providers, all they did was just switch them over to Omnicare, without any kind of warning or reason,” Kuzniarek said.

Smaller retailers, such as Patient’s Pharmacy in Jamestown, say the state’s change of pace will hurt.

“We were told that the state only wanted to use one pharmacy for all of their state business, and the choice was Omnicare,” said Diane Mathews of Patient’s Pharmacy.

The independents say Omnicare is not giving the OPWDD the biggest bang for its bucks.

Patient’s Pharmacy covers a lot of open territory across the Southern Tier, but Mathews says Omnicare does not, and that shortchanges the group homes’ residents.

“When they need, have an emergency they have to go to a CVS to get it because they are so far away,” Mathews said.

An OPWDD spokesperson said in an email that the Omnicare contract is required by state finance law and has improved health outcomes for people served by OPWDD.

Also, the centralized contract vendors meet the form, function, and utility of OPWDD’s pharmaceutical purchasing needs. So far, News 4 has not gotten a response from Omnicare.

Al Vaughters is an award-winning investigative reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 1994. See more of his work here. To submit a Call 4 Action, click here.