CVS Health commits $1M to mental health services for front-line workers

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CVS Health commits $1M to mental health services for front-line workers

By Sandra Levy - 05/04/2020

CVS Health is stepping up and addressing the escalating mental health crisis that has resulted from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

To help address America's expanding mental and emotional well-being needs, the company said it is enhancing its nationwide mental health programming efforts with new charitable investments that are focused on health care workers, essential workers and seniors.

"The wrath of COVID-19 is not just physical. Mental trauma is the deadly undertow of the pandemic's first wave," Karen Lynch, EVP of CVS Health and president of the Aetna business unit, said. "The impact of isolation, fear, uncertainty and loss can be just as deadly as the virus itself. It is silent and can't be seen, but we are all affected by it. We are committed to helping our nation rise above this second wave by first providing support for those who need it most, including heroes on the frontlines and seniors."

Since March 1, CVS Health has seen a 200% increase in virtual mental health visits as compared to the same period last year, as well as substantial increases in calls for help with psychological distress including anxiety, grief and loss, and trauma. Health care workers are under extreme stress and anxiety fighting to save lives, while in many cases, isolating themselves after shifts to keep their own family safe. Self-isolation also affects older adults whose only social contacts are outside of their homes. Those who don't have close family or friends living within their personal "safe-zones" and who rely on outside contact through social programs and community activities can be placed at increased risk of mental health problems.

CVS Health will increase access to the following resources through targeted financial support:

  • Supporting Americares COVID-19 Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Project with a $500,000 contribution from the Aetna Foundation to help frontline health care workers, particularly those who serve low-income populations, improve their mental health awareness, knowledge and resiliency, and understand the mental health concerns impacting their patients.
  • Expert crisis support for frontline health care and essential workers through Crisis Text  Line via a $300,000 grant from the Aetna Foundation. For the Frontlines is a dedicated effort to provide 24/7 confidential direct mental health support for those on the frontlines, including health care workers dealing with the stress, anxiety, fear, depression and/or isolation associated with COVID-19. Health care and essential workers can text FRONTLINE to 741741 from anywhere in the United States to communicate with a trained volunteer crisis counselor at no cost.

CVS Health also is making Aetna's Resources for Living program available to everyone, which includes:

  • Real-time phone support to help callers cope with the emotional impact of the pandemic (accessible by calling 1-833-327-AETNA or 1-833-327-2386).
  • Access to informational content, community referrals and management consultation for organizations (even those who do not partner with Aetna).
  • Employers may access this consultation by calling 1-800-243-5240.
  • Support for basic needs including family meals, access to childcare, and financial guidance.
  • Partnering with vendors to provide direct access to essential needs for seniors.
  • Access to Aetna's RFL Toolkit online, which includes live webinars, targeted articles and expert resources on key topics like managing stress, helping young children cope and strategies for medical staff.
  • Additionally, outpatient counseling for hospital-based employees will be provided through Give An Hour via a $220,000 contribution from CVS Health. Give An Hour will offer no-cost counseling both during and after the pandemic to help health care workers manage trauma responses such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress in some of the most heavily impacted states, including New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

The company also is offering increased support for its own employees through various resources that help build mental health resilience, cope with uncertainty, reduce stress and stay connected. These services will be delivered with 7 Cups, an online platform that connects people to a caring, emotionally supportive volunteer listener to prevent depression and anxiety.