The COVID-19 pandemic has created an uptick in mental health concerns across the nation. In 2020, a KFF study showed that 40% of US adults reported anxiety or depression symptoms, up from 10% in 2019. A KFF Health Tracking Poll tracked negative symptoms experienced as a result of the pandemic, with difficulty sleeping (36% of respondents), difficulty eating (32%), increases in substance use (12%), and worsening chronic conditions (12%) impacting adults most significantly.
With the increasing demand for mental health services, therapists have been largely overbooked, and patients struggle to access and pay for treatment. According to a survey from the World Health Organization, COVID-19 has disrupted mental health services in the vast majority (93%) of countries worldwide.
CVS is working to combat this crisis with its new mental health program under CVS HealthHUB. HealthHUB currently exists in 650 CVS stores across the US and provides urgent care, wellness products, and diagnostic screenings. Now, 34 pilot stores in New Jersey, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Texas will begin providing counseling services. According to the CVS website, customers will be able to complete an initial assessment, work with a licensed therapist to create a care plan, and be referred to specialists based on their diagnosis if needed.
With this program, CVS is working to tackle mental healthcare costs, which are often a significant barrier to those seeking mental health services. According to a 2018 study by Cohen Veterans Network and the National Council of Behavioral Health, over half (56%) of Americans surveyed want access to mental health services, but 34% are unable due to cost or poor insurance coverage.
CVS aims to overcome this challenge by negotiating with several insurance companies to lower costs. The company already struck a deal with Aetna to cover all costs for patients insured by Aetna. Patient consultation costs are not yet announced, but virtual sessions are currently priced at $59 per session.
“Access has been a major problem. It is a crisis in America,” said Anthony Hassan, CEO of Cohen Veterans Network. “When you wonder why there are such high suicide rates among children, it’s because they are not getting the care when they need it.”
This retail-based mental health program will unlikely be the last of its kind. Walmart started offering similar diagnostic and primary care services in 20 retail stores around the country and is soon to open more.
COVID-19 shed light on the severity of the mental health crisis in the US, a challenge that businesses and public entities must now rise to overcome. As organizations work to bring more accessible and affordable services to patients, we are one step closer to improving awareness and eliminating the stigma surrounding mental health.
SAMHSA’s National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.