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A new mental health platform on the Walgreens website will offer consumers free online screening tools and links to providers of followup care.
Walgreens, with its partner, Mental Health America (MHA), launched a new mental health platform on its website last month to help consumers access free online screening tools to help identify such conditions as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
The new platform, www.walgreens.com/mentalhealth, has a link to MHA's mental health screening tools to help individuals quickly determine whether they are experiencing symptoms associated with a mental health condition. For those who want to seek help from a qualified provider, Walgreens also offers a link to the MHA affiliates within a specified geographic area who can facilitate follow-up care.
"With timely intervention often critical to early stage treatment, Walgreens and MHA together have set a goal to complete 3 million online screenings by the end of 2017," a Walgreens press release stated.
"That goal was based on the number of visitors that MHA has to its site and the number of visitors that we have, as well as our awareness campaign and theirs to encourage more people to get screened," said Walgreens spokesperson Jim Cohn.
"Mental Health America is very pleased to partner with Walgreens in this way," said MHA President and CEO Paul Gionfriddo, in a prepared statement. "Our online mental health screening program has rapidly become an amazing year-round way to reach people who have mental health concerns with helpful information and supports. Adding the Walgreens suite of supports and services to our program will strengthen our offerings and help many more people recover from serious mental health conditions."
Walgreens is also directing consumers to a new behavioral telehealth solution from Breakthrough, an MDLIVE company. This offering is another avenue for people to reach a provider through Walgreens digital properties. Breakthrough, according to Walgreens, has more than 1,000 state-licensed therapists and psychiatrists who are available to individuals in need of behavioral health services.
"Half the people with mental health conditions don't seek treatment and in large part this is due to a stigma associated with it," Cohn said. "So some of the appeal [of behavioral telehealth] is the ability to have a conversation or consultation in the comfort of your home."
In addition, Breakthrough may offer viable solution to help meet the needs of patients who are living in areas that have a shortage of mental health providers.
"Approximately 90 million Americans live in areas that have a limited number of mental health providers. So there are real challenges when it comes to access," said Cohn. "The problem is widespread. If you want to get an appointment with a psychiatrist, it may take up to six weeks."
Walgreens plans to offer continuing education on mental health to all of its 27,000 pharmacists. In addition, the company is offering a training program for its nurse practitioners and physician assistants who work in its healthcare clinics. The program will focus on depression and anxiety.
"The role that pharmacists might play is really yet to be determined, but we do believe that pharmacists play an important role in the future of the mental health effort," Cohn said.
Some studies have shown that mental health patients have a number of medication-related issues and challenges, and struggle more with medication adherence. About 30% to more than 65% of these patients have medication adherence issues, he said. "Our pharmacists are working with and talking to patients with mental health conditions every day through a number of different programs and services that we provide."
Walgreens also offers Pharmacy Chat, 24 /7 online access to a pharmacy staff member for a secure one-on-one conversation to help address medication-related issues and concerns.
Depression screening also has been provided for patients with disease states such as multiple sclerosis and chronic inflammatory diseases through Walgreens specialty pharmacies and Walgreens Connected Care.
"For now, Walgreens is looking at what role we can play today [in the mental health arena] and the larger role that we can play moving forward," Cohn said.