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Walgreens, VA, VFW ally on mental health care for veterans

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WASHINGTON — Walgreens is collaborating with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. (VFW) to help improve mental health care for veterans.

Under the agreement, Walgreens, VA and VFW will work together to reach veterans in communities nationwide with targeted initiatives to address mental health awareness and treatment, veteran suicide prevention and opioid overdose education.

VA, VFW and Walgreens unveiled the initiative at a national meeting of VFW officers in Kansas City, Mo.

Brian Duffy, commander-in-chief of VFW; Chet Robson, medical director for clinical programs and quality at Walgreens; and Caitlin Thompson, executive director of the Office of Suicide Prevention at VA, announce the collaboration on veteran’s mental health care.

“We’re proud of the collaborations we’ve developed to provide greater access to pharmacy and health care services for current and former members of the armed services, including retirees and their families,” Brad Fluegel, chief health care commercial market development officer at Walgreens, said in a statement. “We look forward to working closely with VA and VFW to help heighten mental health awareness and hope to improve the health and well-being of more veterans by connecting them with VA, VFW and other resources that can help.”

Education and outreach through the collaboration include efforts to educate VFW members to help reduce the stigma related to mental health conditions plus encourage veterans to seek help through VA. The outreach includes Walgreens and VA programming at several upcoming state VFW meetings.

“Our work is driven by our commitment to encourage veterans to get the care and services they need and integrate mental health care as part of their overall wellness and healthy lifestyle,” stated VA Secretary David Shulkin. “Joining forces with VFW and Walgreens provides VA an opportunity to further expand our reach and connect with Veterans, their families and the community to raise mental health awareness.”

VA, VFW and Walgreens also will share patient education materials to raise awareness of Walgreens and VA efforts to prevent opioid overdose via education, safe disposal of unused medication and access to the overdose antidote naloxone. Training programs and opportunities for Walgreens pharmacists and Healthcare Clinic nurse practitioners will be explored as well to enhance health providers’ ability to recognize veterans’ needs.

“By working with several organizations, including Walgreens and VA, we’re able to positively impact a great number of veterans and help to change the narrative associated with mental wellness,” commented VFW national commander Brian Duffy.

In addition, plans call for Walgreens, VA and VFW to promote and coordinate with VA’s Make the Connection campaign to help change how people think and talk about mental health. Highlighting veterans’ stories of treatment and recovery, the campaign is designed to show the benefits of opening up about mental health concerns and making mental health awareness and treatment part of a healthy lifestyle.

“We know that the rate of suicide is increasing for all Americans, but the rate of increase is much slower for veterans who receive VA care,” stated Poonam Alaigh, acting VA undersecretary for health. “With this in mind, we need to cast a wider net and meet veterans where they live to better engage them in care.”


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