CVS to offer mental health therapy services in-store

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Kalyani Rao

According to their website, the CVS MinuteClinic® offers services to support mental well-being. These include counseling for life adjustments, depression, stress, anxiety, etc. As of now, these services are only available in Texas, New York and Pennsylvania. “A public health crisis like this has only exposed people’s traumas and anxieties and therapists are needed now more than ever,” licensed counselor Stephanie Waitt said. “We are validating a lot of people’s struggles right now and giving people permission to be a little messy.”

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During COVID-19, students and staff in the district have said they felt isolation and social distancing are taking a toll. Yet, therapists have been booked to the brim with anxious patients due to this global pandemic. To combat this reality, major retailer CVS said it will start offering in-store mental health therapy services for customers who request it.

Stephanie Waitt, a licensed counselor at a Texoma clinic in Sherman, said her practice focuses on eating disorders, trauma, depression and anxiety, and it addresses the challenges the pandemic has placed on counselors as they adjust to meet their patients’ mental healthcare needs.

“A public health crisis like this has only exposed people’s traumas and anxieties and therapists are needed now more than ever,” Waitt said. “We are validating a lot of people’s struggles right now and giving people permission to be a little messy.”

According to Rachel Garfield, co-director of the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Program on Medicaid and the Uninsured, the sheer volume of people struggling is forcing insurers to recognize the huge unmet patient need. The pandemic has tripled or quadrupled the number of people struggling with symptoms of depression or anxiety.

Writers on the Counseling Degrees website said pandemic-related social isolation has led counselors to develop new strategies for supporting patients. When COVID-19 first hit, counselors experienced a loss in patient appointments. However, soon enough more people began to seek out therapy to address their changing mental health, and clinics began to fill up. Now, it’s a struggle to find a therapist that can take patients in less than a few months.

“I looked at different therapists on the website of the clinic my psychiatrist belongs to, but all of them were booked through May and June,” said a student at PHS who wished to remain anonymous. “It’s difficult when there are issues that your psychiatrist thinks need to be addressed ASAP, but there are literally no therapists available to see for months out.”

A well-known retailer has chosen to combat this counseling issue  — CVS Pharmacy. According to NPR, the company is trying to fill gaps in access to mental health by piloting a counseling service in some of its retail stores. And by negotiating with insurance companies to cover visits, it’s also trying to reduce the cost of mental health care. Because of the pandemic, costs of therapy have gone up, and appointments can be up to $300 each including insurance.

According to the company website, the CVS MinuteClinic® offers services to support one’s mental well-being. These include counseling for life adjustments, depression, stress, anxiety, etc. Whether someone is looking for an assessment or a place to find out more information, the website said professionally licensed therapists can provide counseling and personalized treatment plans. Licensed therapists at an in-person appointment are available in select clinics and states. If clients want ongoing sessions, they can choose to see the same therapist or schedule a time. However, the therapists provide this service to patients 18 years or older only. As of April 29, the service is only available in Florida, Texas, and Pennsylvania, but more service areas may be added.

So far, CVS’s pilot program, which launched in January, operates in a dozen stores in Houston, Philadelphia and Tampa, Fla., with plans to expand to 34 this year. It’s targeting diverse communities where mental health care isn’t readily available, such as Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, just north of Philadelphia where Miller’s barbershop is located.

“I think it’s really good that CVS is making therapy more accessible,” sophomore Kennedi Laur said. “Especially for those who need it and may not have the means to get an appointment.”

The program is an extension of CVS’ HealthHUBs, which exist in 650 of its nearly 10,000 stores, offering urgent care and wellness products, such as sleep apnea machines. The idea is to create a place where consumers can get eye exams, diabetes screenings and vaccinations as well as mental health treatment, where they already buy their prescriptions.

CVS is gearing up to make this service available in other areas of Texas, including Prosper. It could be weeks or months before it is available here, depending on how strong the demand is.