CVS Invests in Mental Health Services
CVS Tests Offering Mental Health Services
CVS Health (CVS) is among the big drugstore chains expanding into therapy, beginning to offer counseling services in some of its stores. CVS is joining Walmart (WMT) and Walgreens (WBA) in chasing an area that has seen a big uptick in demand recently. More people were seeking mental health help even before the pandemic, and the pressures of COVID-19 caused this trend to accelerate. According to federal data, more people are seeking help for depression, anxiety, addiction, and other mental health challenges.
With online competition rising and their profit margins from prescription drugs narrowing, these companies are looking for ways to diversify. The likes of CVS and Walmart join venture capital-backed startups including Calm and Talkspace (TALK), which are trying to disrupt the traditional mental health treatment industry.
CVS Sees Positive Results From Tests
Earlier this year CVS began staffing some of its stores in Houston, Philadelphia, and Tampa with licensed clinical therapists as part of a pilot program. The test was a success, with CVS seeing a high return rate among the customers who used the service. CVS is now rolling the program out in 34 more locations, charging $129 for a mental health assessment and $69 for a 30 minute session with a counselor. Customers can either return for additional sessions or get a referral for specialized cases.
CVS maintains patients’ privacy by including the mental health services with its other wellness offerings. Other customers in the store cannot tell who is seeking mental health services and who is getting physical health treatments. Similarly, Walmart offers counseling at its Walmart Health stores, charging $60 for a 60-minute visit.
CVS and Aetna to Benefit
The mental health push on the part of CVS and other drugstore operators comes as consumers increasingly see these companies as convenient and inexpensive options for select medical services. Many of these drugstore chains recently overhauled their operations in order to administer COVID-19 vaccines. With the in-person logistics from the vaccines already set up, providing in-person mental health services is a more natural next step.
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