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Walgreens Boots Alliance highlights expanding mental health resources

Walgreens Boots Alliance is expanding mental health first aid training for more than 27,000 Walgreens pharmacists, and rolling out new services to meet the growing need in communities across Europe and the United Kingdom.
Sandra Levy
Senior Editor
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The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on population health around the world and has created an even greater demand for access to care and resources in the area of mental health.

In order to cater to this service that so many need, Walgreens Boots Alliance shared plans of expanding its mental health first aid training for its more than 27,000 Walgreens pharmacists.

In addition, Boots is introducing new services aimed at helping to meet the growing need in communities across Europe and the United Kingdom. 

More than 40,000 Walgreens and Boots pharmacists, medication experts on the frontlines of care, are uniquely positioned to help as an integral part of patients’ care teams, the company said.

“The majority of our patients and customers see their pharmacist more than they do any other healthcare provider, and especially now, pharmacists can play an even greater role with the additional training to help those who may be in crisis,” said Rick Gates, senior vice president of pharmacy for Walgreens. “The pandemic has exacerbated what was already widely considered to be a mental health crisis, and we’re proud to further our commitment to improving the health and wellbeing of our communities by taking additional steps through these and other initiatives.”

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Walgreens first introduced Mental Health First Aid training for certain team members in the company’s human resources department in 2019 and later made the program available for some of its pharmacy staff, including those focused on improving health outcomes.

Mental health first aid, administered by the National Council for Behavioral Health, 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, the National Council and the American Pharmacists Association spearheaded the initiative to create a training program specially tailored for pharmacists, which is now available industrywide.

In Europe and the UK, Boots also has completed a mental health first aid training program for some pharmacy staff in-field team roles, as well as support office functions and Boots’ pharmacy support helpdesk.

Boots has partnered with Ieso Digital Health to offer its “How Are Things” mood and symptom checker, a class 1 medical device, through the Boots Health Hub – a digital resource offering a wide range of healthcare and pharmacy services. “How Are Things” is available online to patients 18 years and older.

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Boots also will soon launch a new mental health service and offering through its Boots Online Doctor platform, which went live earlier this year. The service is planned to be available by the end of 2021.

Walgreens Find Care, an expanded digital health platform, also offers mental health services through providers including BetterHelp and Sanvello. Many of the local and national healthcare partners listed on Find Care offer mental and behavioral healthcare services as well.

Walgreens noted that it is proud to offer benefits, resources and tools that support team members’ mental health through the company’s Life365 Employee Assistance Program, in partnership with LifeWorks. The program offers an allotment of free behavioral health counseling and support services to team members and their immediate families, and also includes a robust digital platform providing work-life balance tools and tips, as well as other helpful resources.

All company-sponsored medical and prescription drug plans also include comprehensive mental health care for eligible employees.

With the COVID-19 pandemic creating an even greater focus on mental health and wellbeing for employers, Walgreens is building on its partnership with Mental Health America to help support MHA’s industry leading workplace mental health initiatives.

This includes ongoing research into different factors that impact employees' social, emotional, and mental health in various workplace settings as part of its Mind the Workplace Report series, as well as support of MHA’s Framework for a Mentally Healthy Workplace – a practical guide designed to help employers everywhere.

These initiatives culminate in MHA’s nearly 40 years of experience in workplace mental health.