March 21, 2019
You already can pick up your groceries, prescriptions, tires, sofas, computers, pet food, sporting equipment, and crafts supplies at Walmart.
So what else could you possibly want or need? Now, a Boston-based company is taking the discount retail concept to a new level (and arguably, to an even broader base of consumers)—by offering mental health counseling to Walmart shoppers, the Boston Globe reports.
Beacon Health Options— a provider of clinical mental health and substance use disorder management; as well as specialty programs for autism and depression, grief, and relationship issues—has opened a small clinic in the Walmart store in Carrollton, Texas.
The company, which already claims to serve 40 million people across all 50 U.S. states, plans to roll out the program in other Walmart retail locations nationwide, with the goal of increasing access to mental healthcare.
Staffed for now with one licensed clinical social worker, the clinic treats patients who either walk in or make appointments.
“The goal is to fight stigma and simplify the process of finding help, while also assuring quality, Russell C. Petrella, Beacon Health’s president and CEO, told the Globe, adding, “ “People don’t know how to find a behavioral health or mental health professional. “People don’t know where to go and what to do.”
The retail clinics will promise access to a credentialed professional in a familiar environment, he said, noting, “We’re trying to mainstream behavioral health services.”.
Shoppers have become accustomed to visiting clinics in department stores or drug stores for sore throats, ear infections, and other everyday medical problems. But whether patients will be equally comfortable revealing their sorrows and worries in a Walmart remains to be seen.
Bonnie Cook, executive director of Mental Health America of Greater Dallas told the news outlet that she welcomed the idea of a Walmart clinic, saying it is likely to reach people in need. Recently, Mental Health America, a national advocacy group, gave Texas the lowest rating of all states for access to mental health services.
“As a mental health community, we have to start thinking outside the box,” Cook told the Boston Globe.
Beacon Health has not decided where to locate its future retail clinics yet, Petrella said. But the Boston area, he said, “is not on the radar” because of its high concentration of providers. A clinic may someday be considered for more rural parts of the state, he said.
The retail clinic in Texas is intended for people with milder forms of mental illness. People with serious mental illnesses and those in crisis will be referred to other professionals in Beacon’s network, as will those who need a prescription.
As backup if the clinic gets busy, patients will be able to speak remotely by Skype or other services to another professional.
The clinic has a sliding-fee schedule for those without health insurance and is in the process of getting approved for Medicaid reimbursement in Texas.
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