Walgreens' health outcomes pharmacists finish 1st phase of mental health first aid training

David Salazar
Managing Editor
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Walgreens has taken a big first step in meeting the growing need for mental health resources in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The company’s health outcomes pharmacists have completed the first phase of training in mental health first aid, administered by the National Council for Behavioral Health. The initiative was announced last May as part of Mental Health Month in the United States. 

Mental health first aid training — which is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education — includes information about mental health literacy and understanding the risk factors and warning signs of mental health and addiction concerns, as well as strategies to help someone in both crisis and non-crisis situations. Walgreens’ health outcomes pharmacists are focused on improving patient outcomes and medication adherence. They mark the dirst group to complete the training, which was specially developed by Walgreens, the National Council for Behavioral Health and the American Pharmacists Association. 

“Every day, in communities across America, our pharmacists are talking with patients with a wide range of conditions, including mental health,” said Rina Shah, Walgreens group vice president, specialty and retail pharmacy operations.  “With the prevalence and rise of incidents of depression, anxiety, addiction, PTSD and others, specialized training can be key to identifying warning signs, and working with other providers, even finding gaps in care or treatment.  We’ve long believed pharmacists can play an even greater role as part of patient’s care teams, and we’re proud to be at the forefront of our industry expanding our efforts in the area of mental health to help meet this growing need.”

The completion comes as mental health providers are seeing higher patient demand. Mental health America has seen a 64% increase in screenings completed for depression and a 70% rise in screenings for Anxiety between January and April. 

“Mental Health First Aid training is more essential than ever, as our country risks a wave of mental illness in the wake of the tragic COVID-19 pandemic,” said Chuck Ingoglia National Council for Behavioral Health President and CEO. “We are extremely gratified that these Walgreens pharmacists have received this important training and have the capacity to provide vital assistance and counseling when demand for Mental Health First Aid is expected to reach historic levels.”

This summer, the pharmacist training will be available to any pharmacist industry-wide with the opportunity to earn continuing education credits through APhA. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened what was already a pressing need for pharmacy personnel: increasing their awareness of acute mental health issues and equipping them with tools to help direct patients to the mental health resources they need,” said Scott J. Knoer, PharmD, MS, APhA CEO/EVP Designate. “We are grateful to Walgreens for its partnership in granting profession-wide distribution of this much-needed training program.”

Also as part of the collaboration between Walgreens and the National Council, 65 members of Walgreens’ human resources department recently completed their initial phase of mental health first aid training. 

Walgreens said it offers team members various services via its free employee assistance program, which includes an allotment of no-cost behavioral health vists for employees and their families, and the company’s sponsored medical and prescription drug plans include comprehensive mental health care for eligible employees.