Pharmacists are positioned to help address patients’ mental health needs

Last week, Walgreens and APhA announced a collaboration with the National Council for Behavioral Health (National Council) to provide Mental Health First Aid training for many Walgreens pharmacists and team members. Mental Health First Aid training will eventually become available to any pharmacist professionwide. The program will be accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE), and pharmacists will have the opportunity to earn continuing education credits through APhA. The training complements the efforts of other organizations and communities to address this important public health concern.

We’re thrilled to be a part of this effort to equip pharmacists to provide care for patients in what may be their lowest times, and it’s fitting that this program is rolling out now, since May is Mental Health Month. The issues of substance use disorder and mental health are real and acute. As pharmacists, we have a relationship with our patients. We know when patients aren’t acting like themselves, and because we know what medications a patient is taking, we can recognize patients who may be at risk. Arming our front lines with these training and educational resources is a strong move in addressing this crisis.

Mental Health First Aid, administered by the National Council, trains participants in mental health literacy and how to recognize risk factors and warning signs for mental illness and addiction, as well as provides strategies for how to help someone in both crisis and noncrisis situations. Check out the Mental Health First Aid story in the December 2018 issue of Pharmacy Today to learn more about what it entails and how pharmacists can use it.

APhA is emphasizing pharmacists’ accessibility to address the nation’s mental health and substance use disorder needs. The APhA 2019 House of Delegates adopted policy encouraging all health care personnel to receive training and provide services to identify, assist, and refer people at risk for, or currently experiencing, a mental health crisis. The policy also encourages employers and policymakers to provide the support, resources, culture, and authority necessary for all pharmacy personnel to engage and assist individuals in mental health and emotional well-being. Finally, the policy supports integration of a mental health assessment as a vital component of pharmacist-provided patient care services. This program puts our House policy into action.

Stay tuned to learn more about APhA's plans to use pharmacists' position as a last line of defense to keep our patients and communities healthy and safe. And as always, remember to give yourself time to breathe and stay in touch with your own well-being.

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