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Walgreens Is Launching A Major Initiative Aimed To Improve Mental Health

It Would Provide Free Services To Upwards Of Three Million People.

U.S. Army Photo by Pfc. Paige Pendleton, 1st BCT, 1st Cav. Div. PAO

In the face of ever-rising healthcare costs and reduced funding for mental health services, America’s largest drug store chain, Walgreens, launched a new online initiative earlier this week that aims to drastically increase accessibility to mental health services for millions of Americans.

The drug store giant unveiled on Tuesday a new online portal that provides a number of mental health services free of cost, including information on community resources, tools to improve medication adherence, and early screening for different mental health conditions. Walgreens has teamed up with Mental Health America (MHA), a leading community-based non-profit organization dedicated to addressing the needs of individuals with mental illness, with the joint intent of improving health outcomes, increasing awareness and reducing stigma. Together, the organizations aim to provide three million online screenings by the end of 2017.

Walgreen’s announcement coincides with Mental Health Month, which is celebrated every May as a way to spread awareness and reduce the stigma associated with mental illness. The National Institute of Health estimates that one in five Americans will be affected by a mental illness in their lifetime, yet less than half of these individuals receive treatment. As the first step toward improving accessibility to services, Walgreens has made available via their online portal free, scientifically based screening tools for depression, anxiety, PTSD, bipolar disorder, psychosis, substance use and other conditions. MHA will assist with facilitating follow-up treatment and care through referrals to local community providers.

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“I think the big idea here is that we’re promoting that mental health should be treated just as any physical health condition,” said Dr. Harry Leider, Walgreen’s Chief Medical Director.

Walgreen’s new initiative also aims to improve medication adherence, which tends to be significantly lower for individuals with mental illness compared to other medical conditions. “In mental health, in particular, adherence (to prescriptions) is a major, major challenge,” Leider explained. To tackle this obstacle, Walgreens will offer continuing education for its more than 27,000 pharmacists, who provide consultations for people new to medication therapies and 24/7 pharmacy chat services for medication-related questions. Walgreens already partners with MDLIVE’s Breakthrough service to provide behavioral telehealth to consumers via 1,000 licensed therapists and psychiatrists over the Internet and telephone. Walgreen’s President Alex Gourlay commented: “We’re proud to help meet the need for mental health resources in our communities, to encourage those who have questions or concerns to seek answers, and to work closely with other providers and partners to help more people get the support and services they need.”

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