As the most accessible health care providers in the community, and also among the most trusted, pharmacists can play an important role as part of patients’ care teams to help address the growing need for mental health resources. With today marking the beginning of Mental Health Month in the U.S., Walgreens announces a unique collaboration with the National Council for Behavioral Health (National Council) and the American Pharmacists Association (APhA), to provide Mental Health First Aid training for certain Walgreens pharmacists and team members.
Mental Health First Aid, administered by the National Council, trains participants in mental health literacy, understanding risk factors and warning signs for mental health and addiction concerns and strategies for how to help someone in both crisis and non-crisis situations.
Walgreens will begin the training with certain pharmacy staff members, including those focused on health outcomes. As part of the company’s growing commitment to workplace mental health and wellness, it is also working with the National Council to train more than 300 Walgreens team members within human resources in Mental Health First Aid.
“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, Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc. “We’re proud to further our commitment to improving the health and wellbeing 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.”
The initiative further builds upon Walgreens’ digital platform and resources related to mental health, as well as the company’s efforts to curb opioid misuse and abuse, as more than 8 million U.S. adults are estimated to be living with a mental health condition as well as battling addiction to opioids or other substances1.
Walgreens, the National Council and APhA are working closely together through the collaboration to tailor the training program for pharmacists, and it will be accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education.
“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 for Behavioral Health. “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.”
Also through this effort, and with Walgreens’ support, Mental Health First Aid training will eventually become available to any pharmacist industry-wide, and with the opportunity to earn continuing education credits through APhA. The training can benefit patients, as well as pharmacists, at a critical time.
“APhA is pleased to play an active role in this partnership,” said APhA CEO Thomas E. Menighan, BSPharm, MBA, ScD (Hon), FAPhA. “We applaud Walgreens, the National Council, practitioners and all other employers who recognize and meet the needs of pharmacists and the patients they serve. The issues of substance use and mental health are real and acute. Arming our front lines with these training and educational resources is a strong move in addressing this crisis.”
In the workplace, Walgreens offers a wide variety of services through its free employee assistance program, including an allotment of behavioral health visits available at no cost for team members and their families. All Walgreens-sponsored medical and prescription drug plans also include comprehensive mental health care for eligible employees.
“The overall health of our 240,000 team members and their families is a top priority and as a company that champions health and well-being in our communities across the U.S., we strive to do everything we can as an employer to keep our workforce healthy, physically and mentally,” said Kristin Oliver, Walgreens’ senior vice president and chief human resources officer. “We’re proud to offer this training program to hundreds of employees within our human resources department, and through this collaboration, to give more of our workforce critical tools and skills to better serve our customers and our company.”