In support of VA pharmacists

APhA has received word that the Veterans Affairs Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released a report today, Thursday, June 27, 2019, on findings related to the practice of Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) mental health clinical pharmacists. This report, specific to pharmacists, is a follow-up to a more general report examining the suicide deaths of two veterans at a VA facility in Madison, WI.

The Joint Commission of Pharmacy Practitioners (JCPP), a collaboration of 13 national pharmacy associations, including APhA, provided a letter of support for VA mental health pharmacists to OIG in advance of the anticipated release of this report, and OIG sent back a letter in response indicating the report would be released imminently. The report is under review, and we anticipate the need for further action from pharmacy organizations.

We know that as the most accessible health care providers, pharmacists are integral to meeting the nation’s mental health needs, and APhA is committed to necessary action related to this report.

The VA has led the way in recognizing that pharmacists can and should be prominently integrated into health care, including mental health care. Pharmacists do, can, and will continue to play a major role in patients' physical and mental well-being.

APhA has invested organizational resources into 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.

We will continue to follow this story and keep you in the loop. Thank you for all you do for your patients and communities.