Walgreens to offer mental health access via telemedicine

With about 1 in 5 Americans each year affected by mental health conditions--more than heart disease or diabetes--Walgreens is now expanding mental health services, including access to 1,000 therapists and psychiatrists via a telemedicine company, according to the retail pharmacy chain's announcement.

The drugstore giant announced its new initiative Tuesday, saying it wanted to increase access to mental health treatment, screenings and awareness.

Of particular concern is that less than 50 percent of Americans who are prescribed medications to treat mental health conditions take them as directed, if at all, Walgreens said. "In mental health, in particular, adherence (to prescriptions) is a major, major challenge," Walgreens chief medical officer Harry Leider, M.D., said in an interview with Forbes.

Walgreens will partner with a telemedicine company in order to offer access to mental health therapists and psychiatrists via Walgreen's web site and mobile app. More than a year ago, Walgreens began a relationship with the company to provide customers with around-the-clock access to physicians, the Forbes report said.

In addition, Walgreens will work with the nonprofit Mental Health America to connect people with free community-based screenings for mental health conditions. They hope to screen three million people by the end of 2017.

The pharmacy chain also will work with the organization and other experts to provide training and continuing education for its 27,000 pharmacists. It will begin a training program later this month focused on depression and anxiety for the more than 1,100 nurse practitioners and physician assistants working in Walgreens Healthcare Clinics, the company said.

The latest initiative by Walgreens is another example of pharmacy chains pushing beyond their traditional role of dispensing and managing customer prescription needs, Forbes said. Walgreens and other large pharmacy chains have also expanded into retail health.

To learn more:
- find the company announcement
- read the Forbes article