Walgreens has announced it has completed the first phase of its Mental Health First Aid training, which is administered by the National Council for Behavioral Health. Mental Health First Aid helps teach about mental health literacy, understanding risk factors, and warning signs for mental health and addiction concerns and strategies for how to help people in crisis and non-crisis situations. The Accreditation Council accredits this training for Pharmacy Education.
“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 in a Walgreens press release. “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.”
These Walgreens pharmacists are also the first to complete this specialized training that was developed through a unique collaboration between Walgreens, the National Council for Behavioral Health, and the American Pharmacists Association. The brand has also said it would make this training available to any pharmacy industry-wide later this summer, along with the ability to gain more education credits through APhA.
“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 National Council for Behavioral Health President and CEO Chuck Ingoglia also said in the same news release. “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 announcement from Walgreens comes as many mental health centers and providers across the country report greater demand. Mental Health America has reported an increase in screenings for depression, 64 percent, and anxiety, 70 percent, from January through April 2020.  
“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 said in the Walgreens press release as well. “We are grateful to Walgreens for its partnership in granting profession-wide distribution of this much-needed training program.”

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