DEERFIELD, Ill. — Walgreens this month announced it will train some of its pharmacists and other employees in understanding risk factors and warning signs for mental health and addiction concerns as well as strategies for helping individuals in crisis and noncrisis situations.
Walgreens said its participation in the Mental Health First Aid program will be a collaborative effort with the National Council for Behavioral Health (National Council) and the American Pharmacists Association (APhA).
The collaborators will tailor the training for pharmacists, and the program will be accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education. Walgreens said Mental Health First Aid training will eventually become available to pharmacists industrywide.
“With the growing need for services and resources to help those living with mental health conditions, as well as substance use and addiction, we can play an important role by giving our pharmacists and certain team members the training to help those who may be in crisis,” said Alex Gourlay, co-chief operating officer of Walgreens Boots Alliance. “We’re proud to further our commitment to improving the health and well-being of our communities through this initiative and working with the National Council and APhA to continue an important dialogue around mental health and how we can help.”
One in five people experiences a mental health or substance use issue in a given year, and it’s likely that most of those individuals use a pharmacy’s services during that year, said Betsy Schwartz, vice president of public education and strategic initiatives at the National Council. “Thanks to the leadership of Walgreens, the National Council and APhA, pharmacists trained in Mental Health First Aid can be a first line of help for people when they possibly need it most.”
Walgreens will initially train pharmacy staff members, including those focused on health outcomes. The company also said it will work with the National Council to provide Mental Health First Aid training to more than 300 Walgreens human resources personnel.
Walgreens said that among the free services it offers its employees and their family members is an allotment of behavioral health visits. Additionally, all Walgreens-sponsored medical and prescription drug plans include comprehensive mental health care for eligible employees, the company said.
The initiative builds upon Walgreens’ existing resources and ongoing commitment to curb opioid misuse and abuse, the company said.
Walgreens said it launched its mental health platform (Walgreens.com/mentalhealth) three years ago to help meet the need for resources and to improve access to care.