Walgreens has launched a mental health platform that targets screening 3 million Americans for mental disease in the next 18 months.

The expansion of mental health services – akin to the move of its archrival CVS Health to halt tobacco product sales – is seen as the drugstore chain’s latest push to go beyond its role of dispensing the nation’s prescription needs.

The Deerfield-based company is partnering with nonprofit Mental Health America to add free mental health screening tools and resources to its website, which will cater to those potentially suffering from depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bipolar disorder and other mental issues.

“Walgreens is dedicated to championing everyone’s right to be happy and healthy, and our commitment extends to supporting our customers and patients to both good physical and mental health,” said Walgreens president Alex Gourlay in the official announcement.

The new service, available at Walgreens.com/MentalHealth, features a range of online screening tools and informational content. The timely intervention it will provide, which can hopefully assist early-stage treatment, is hoped to involve 3 million screenings by the end of next year.

In a bid to help improve mental health treatment, Walgreens will also provide access to more than 1,000 therapists and psychiatrists via MDLive company Breakthrough. The company started a relationship with telemedicine firm MDLive 18 months earlier to offer its customers round-the-clock access to physicians.

Through their phone or computer, customers can access these licensed professionals for relevant advice.

Walgreens’ network of more than 27,000 pharmacists will also undergo training and educational programs, such as lessons focused on anxiety and depression, to better serve mental health patients.

Less than half of Americans prescribed drugs for mental health issues take them as directed, if at all, making it necessary to provide further training to pharmacies around medication issues, explained Dr. Harry Leider, Walgreens' chief medical officer, in an interview.

Leider added that there different factors affect medication, which can take up to five weeks to work. Some patients stop taking them when they do not feel better right away, while others stop because of the side effects or when their condition gets in the way of dutifully filling their prescription.

Walgreens obtained most of its $103.4 billion revenue in 2015 from filling 894 million prescriptions.

Photo: Mike Mozart | Flickr

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