Will CVS make a breakthrough as it expands in-store mental health services?
CVS is expanding a pilot program offering mental health counseling and therapy services inside stores. The program is designed to help make such services more accessible and affordable to the public, with an expected side benefit of reducing overall healthcare costs.
The chain launched the pilot in January in 17 stores across three states and is expanding it to 34 by July.
“Stressed? Feeling a little down? We want to help,” CVS writes on the program’s online landing page.
The program guides customers to meet with licensed therapists and social workers who can provide behavioral assessments, referrals and on-the-spot counseling, according to a news release. Customers can book in-person sessions in private consultation rooms or telehealth consultations.
The sessions are integrated with the pharmacy. Eve Townsend, a licensed social worker and therapist working at a CVS in Jenkintown, PA, told NPR, “To be able to say I can refer you within this clinic with a nurse practitioner or you can get your medication in the same place where you’re getting your mental health services — it’s like a one-stop-shop.”
Therapists are in high demand due to the pandemic. According to the Aetna Mental Health Pulse Survey 2021, 65 percent of Americans ages 18 to 34 have had concerns about their own mental health or that of household members, family or friends since the outbreak.
The long-term hurdle to accessibility, however, has been affordability. In most areas of the country, sessions cost $100 to $200 a person, according to therapist directory GoodTherapy.org. CVS charges $59 for a telehealth session. CVS, which has owned Aetna since 2018, is covering the cost for Aetna-insured patients and negotiating for similar terms with other insurers.
More broadly, studies have shown addressing depression, anxiety and stress can ward off more serious health issues.
“You’re not going to be able to reduce emergency visits if you can’t address some of the other problems that they have around mental health,” Jeff Cook, VP HealthHUB Strategy and Products, CVS Health, told NPR.
Among other retailers, Walmart operates about 20 Walmart Health in-store clinics that charge $45 for 45-minute counseling sessions.
- CVS HealthHUBs To Pilot Behavioral Health Services In 34 Locations – CVS Health
- Understanding the mental health impact of COVID-19 – CVS Health
- Aetna Mental Health Pulse Survey 2021 – CVS Health
- CVS To Offer In-Store Mental Health Counseling – NPR
- CVS says it will double the number of stores that offer counseling and therapy services to customers by July – Insider
- CVS Focuses on Mental Health, Pilots New Social Worker Model – Behavioral Health Business
- How Much Does Therapy Cost? – GoodTherapy
- Would you go to Walmart to see a doctor? – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Does it make business sense for pharmacies to offer mental health services and therapy alongside current services in those stores? What do you think will be the keys to success or failure in these endeavors?