Therapy, aisle three! Now, you can access mental health services in the same place you pick up your prescription.
Statistics reflect a steep increase in symptoms of anxiety or depression in 2020 and 2021. 65% of Americans ages 18 to 34 have had mental health concerns for themselves or for friends and family members since 2020 and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline reported a 27% increase in calls in 2020.
To meet the growing demand, pharmacies are adding new counseling and therapy services as part of their storefront offerings. Convenience giants including CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, and Walmart are introducing mental health services to their customers via virtual, app, and in-person appointments. Now, consumers can get their band aids, medications, and therapy sessions all in one place.
CVS Health is piloting in-store counseling. The program began connecting licensed therapists to customers in January 2021 via their CVS MinuteClinic providers. Adults 18 and over can seek assessments, referrals, and even private consultations and counseling at select CVS pharmacies.
Offering an additional access point to mental health care and counseling, the CVS MinuteClinics are covered by major health insurers and make counseling available to underserved populations at a low price point. Currently available in Texas, Pennsylvania and Florida, CVS plans to expand its in-person and telehealth counseling services to 34 total locations.
Introducing counseling services in a major pharmaceutical setting effectively closes the gap between mental and physical health care. Ashley Karpinski, Head of EAP Strategy and Innovation at Aetna and the director of behavioral health strategy and innovation for CVS Health, says that making these services available to CVS customers is “a new channel for real-time support and connection to appropriate mental health care.”
Walgreens is helping customers navigate counseling services through a new virtual platform. Announced in March 2021, the Walgreens Find Care program will coordinate virtual appointments for customers seeking therapy, streamlining what is normally a difficult series of phone calls between insurance and medical providers. Thanks to Walgreens’s partnership with Mental Health America, customers will also be able to schedule online mental health screenings with teletherapy companies BetterHelp and Sanvello.
Walmart and Rite Aid are tapping into the mental health care space virtually as well. Walmart, which currently provides counseling services through Walmart Health, announced in May that they’ve acquired healthcare company MeMD and will offer virtual medical and mental health care through the acquisition. Even Rite Aid is testing teletherapy sessions in a select 13 stores across the US as a part of their RxEvolution strategy, which kicked off in November 2020. These convenience models are revolutionizing consumer perceptions of addressing and treating mental health.
Aligning counseling services with more traditional medical treatments and supplies will reshape the way consumers treat their mental health needs, and may push them to consider their mental health as often as they do their physical health. By expanding availability of these services, brands will also “increase visibility – and that helps reduce stigma” surrounding mental health services, according to Dr. Kali D. Cyrus of Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, D.C. In doing so, these companies are closing the gap between physical and mental health care.
Main image courtesy of CVS