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"Walgreens Aims to Promote Greater Mental Health Awareness" news article

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Drugstore giant Walgreens Boots Alliance has taken another step in its effort to be viewed as a healthcare provider alternative. The nation's largest retail pharmacy chain on Tuesday announced it will collaborate with national behavioral health advocacy organization Mental Health America to provide mental health screening to as many as 3 million people through 2017. Walgreens will launch an “Answer Center” on the company's website where visitors can find local mental healthcare providers and link to a website that offers online mental health screening. Walgreens will train more than 1,100 of its nurse practitioners and physician assistants working within its 400 healthcare clinics to better identify related to depression and anxiety. The move is the latest endeavor by Walgreens to position itself as a healthcare services provider. Chains have recently tried to recast their scope beyond their back-of-the-store pharmacies. This initiative allows Walgreens to fulfill a greatly unmet need. Over the past year, roughly 43 million Americans are thought to have had a diagnosable mental health condition, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Despite such prevalence, around 60% of adults and almost half of young people between the ages of 8 and 15 received no treatment, reports the National Alliance on Mental Illness. “When you think about the healthcare conditions our consumers face, what is poorly understood I think by most people is that mental health conditions in terms of their frequency or their prevalence are bigger than diabetes,” said Dr. Harry Leider, Walgreens chief medical officer. Walgreens will now also provide telehealth counseling services through provider Breakthrough Behavioral. Mental Health America CEO Paul Gionfriddo said he felt the collaboration, which has been in the works for about a year, would provide the public with much greater access to mental healthcare resources while helping to further promote the integration of mental and physical health. “I think Walgreens recognizes that the people who use their services as a retail pharmacy both in the stores and online have a lot of questions about their mental health even when they're dealing with questions of their traditional physical health,” Gionfriddo said.

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