Walgreens To Train Staff In Mental Health First Aid

By Victoria Kim 05/06/19

The 8-hour course will teach pharmacists mental health "literacy" and "how to help someone in crisis and non-crisis situations."

Walgreens store front

Walgreens’ latest public health initiative aims to teach pharmacists and staff how to identify and respond to signs of mental health or substance use issues.

Through a partnership with the National Council for Behavioral Health and the American Pharmacists Association, the national drug store chain is training staff in mental health first aid—an 8-hour course on “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,” the company stated.

“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 in crisis,” said Alex Gourlay, chief operating officer of Walgreens Boots Alliance.

More than 1.5 million people in the U.S. have completed the course.

“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 Linda Rosenberg, CEO of the National Council for Behavioral Health.

This year, Walgreens will have installed safe medication disposal kiosks at all of its locations. It also offers naloxone without the need for a prescription.

In 2016, the company launched Walgreens.com/MentalHealth in collaboration with Mental Health America to provide a resource that connects people with treatment options, free screening tools and information such as “How to Manage Anxiety Medications” and “Helping a Family Member Who Has PTSD.”

Another major retailer, Walmart, is supporting community mental health by establishing a mental health clinic in a store in Texas.

Last year Walmart opened its first clinic in its Carrolton, Texas store, with plans to open more nationwide. The clinic is staffed by a licensed social worker and offers treatment for anxiety, depression, grief, relationship issues and more.

“People don’t know how to find a behavioral health or mental health professional. People don’t know where to go and what to do,” said Dr. Russell Petrella, president and CEO of Beacon Health Options, the company that collaborated with Walmart to open the clinic. “We’re trying to mainstream behavioral health services.”

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr