Retail Pharmacies Are Now Offering Therapy Services

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In a sign of the times, retail pharmacies are now starting to offer mental and behavioral health services, either in person or via telehealth services, making these services more accessible and less expensive to more people. Due to stress, grief and isolation, the pandemic has exacerbated mental health issues in the U.S. at an alarming pace, according to a new Aetna survey, which calls it the “fourth wave of the pandemic.”

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For example, CVS, which merged with Aetna three years ago, is offering visits with MinuteClinic licensed therapists or telehealth appointments in select Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Texas locations through its pilot HealthHUB program.

“Stressed? Feeling a little down? We want to help,” CVS says on its website. “These days, it seems like everyone carries around stress. Worries. Feelings of uncertainty that can feel overwhelming and bigger than we are. Maybe it stems from our work. A life transition. Or perhaps there are family issues that can seem difficult. Quite often, the causes of stress, anxiety or depression can be something we can’t quite put our finger on.”

CVS says its services may be less expensive than traditional mental and emotional health counseling services. “We can bill your insurance directly, or you can pay with cash or credit card or use your employee assistance program (EAP) benefits if appropriate,” according to its website.

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Dr. Daniel Knecht, the vice president of clinical product at CVS Health, told The New York Times that CVS aims to reduce overall health costs with its mental health pilot program. “Our aspiration is to make mental health services accessible and locally available so we can address these issues before they continue to expand and result in substantial morbidity and poor outcomes.” 

According to GoodTherapy, therapy generally ranges from $65 per hour to $250 or more, and in most areas of the country, a person can expect to pay $100-$200 per session. CVS, in comparison, charges $59 for a telehealth visit, according to its website. Mental health services provided by the CVS MinuteClinics have pricing options without insurance that range from $129 for an initial assessment to $69 for a 30-minute session, “with many options in between,” according to The New York Times.

Coinciding with the start of Mental Health Awareness month, Walmart also announced last week it had acquired MeMD, a multi-specialty telehealth provider, which will also provide mental health services. At Walmart, the initial therapy session is $60 and the 45-minute follow-up sessions cost $45, according to The New York Times.

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Walgreens, which notes on its website that this year, one in four or five Americans will be affected by a mental health condition, partnered with Mental Health America. Through the partnership, the company offers free mental health screenings, the facilitation of therapy appointments and video chats with therapists.

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The New York Times reports that in the past year, the number of people reporting symptoms of anxiety or depression nearly quadrupled compared to the year prior, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “And in 2020, there was a 27% increase in calls to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline compared to the number of calls in 2019,” according to the Times.

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