By Monkey Business Images @

CVS is testing a service that offers mental health counseling in stores around America. The drug store is not alone, as Walgreens and Walmart are also experimenting with similar services. Sharon Terlep reports for The Wall Street Journal:

CVS Health Corp. CVS +0.44% is betting Americans will get therapy at the same place they buy their snacks, soda and prescription drugs.

The pharmacy company is among several retailers including Walmart Inc. WMT +0.58% and Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc., WBA +0.35% that are experimenting with offering counseling services in or near stores. They see potential as the Covid-19 pandemic has prompted more people to seek help for addiction, depression and other issues, according to federal data.

“It’s creative and we certainly need the help,” said Ken Duckworth, medical director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. “It’s an interesting idea to post a mental-health resource at a place where people already are at.”

CVS earlier this year started stationing mental-health providers, typically a licensed clinical social worker trained in cognitive behavioral therapy, at 13 locations in Houston, Philadelphia and Tampa, Fla., as a pilot program. The company said it saw a surprisingly high return rate for customers who had an initial consultation, and is now expanding the program to 34 locations in those areas.

Some healthcare providers question how many people are comfortable seeking therapy in such a public setting, despite a growing acceptance and understanding of mental-health issues. CVS says other customers would have no way of knowing that a person is getting mental-health help, given that the stores offer a range of wellness services. Mental-health services are advertised inside the stores, where an area designated for medical services includes a private room for counseling sessions.

“We’re not putting up a big neon sign: ‘Getting therapy here,’ ” said Cara McNulty, president of behavioral health for CVS-owned Aetna Inc.

A mental-health assessment costs $129; a 30-minute counseling session is $69. Based on the assessment results, a customer could return for a few therapy sessions, or they might get a referral for extensive services from a family doctor, psychiatrist or another local resource. People without insurance are referred to a community organization that helps the uninsured, CVS said.

“We’re dealing with a system that is broken and confusing,” said Aetna’s Ms. McNulty. “Often people don’t know where to go, who to see and what they need to be seen for. When you really democratize access to care by putting mental-health support in a retail setting, it makes access easier for people.”

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