Walgreens To Expand Mental Health Services to Raise Awareness

By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On May 10, 2016, Walgreens announced it will expand mental health services, including access to behavioral health treatment via telemedicine, to expand customer options for treatment, screenings and awareness. To improve overall mental health treatment, Walgreens will offer access to 1,000 therapists and psychiatrists via Breakthrough, an MDLive telemedicine company. Walgreens recently began a relationship with MDLive, a telemedicine company, to provide customers with around-the-clock access to physicians, as well as Mental Health America.

Mental Health Conditions.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, about one in five Americans suffers mental health conditions, which is greater than medical conditions like diabetes and heart disease. But patient adherence to prescriptions is worse for mental health conditions than physical illnesses, so Walgreens is hoping that its pharmacists and nurse practitioners can have an impact.

“In mental health, in particular, adherence (to prescriptions) is a major, major challenge,” Walgreens chief medical officer Dr. Harry Leider said in an interview. Less than 50% of Americans who are prescribed medications to treat mental health conditions take them as directed, if at all, Walgreens said. “Pharmacies have always been oriented around supporting patients who are on medications for mental health conditions, but we are providing even more training around medication issues,” Leider said.

The Push for Expansion of Mental Health Care.

Walgreens is one of several large drugstores, like CVS and Wal-Mart, to push further beyond a pharmacy chain’s traditional role of dispensing and managing customer prescription needs. The pharmacy giant believes it can make a difference given six million Americans shop at the drugstore chain’s stores each day and some two million people come to digital properties like the company’s web site and mobile.

In further the expansion, Walgreens is working with Mental Health America, a nonprofit that will help the drugstore giant connect its customers to free community-based screenings for mental health conditions that include depression, anxiety and bipolar disorders. Walgreens will also work with other experts in the field to improve training and education of its more than 27,000 pharmacists and more than 1,100 nurse practitioners and physician assistants employed at its drugstores. To read more on Mental Health America, click here.

Mental Health America and Walgreens has set a goal to screen three million people by the end of 2017 to improve care and patient awareness.


Mental Health Parity Act.

The law has finally recognized that mental illness is as serious as physical illness, through passage of the Mental Health Parity Act.  This is long, long overdue.  The problem now is the shortage of psychiatrists, psychologists, mental health counselors and social workers it will take to treat the greater number of patients covered by insurance paying for such treatment.  The effort by Walgreens to address this issue shows great business planning foresight and insightful planning by one of the largest healthcare providers in our nation. Cudos to Walgreens.
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Japsen, Bruce. “Walgreens To Expand Mental Health Services.” Forbes. (May 10, 2016). Web.

Johnson, Steven. “Walgreens aims to promote greater mental health awareness.” Modern Healthcare. (May 10, 2016). Web.
About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

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