Greater Access to Mental Health Care is on the Horizon
Employers and retail giants alike are increasingly inserting mental health into the broader, public conversation around individual health care and employee benefits. Various U.S. employers are rolling out employee-based benefit programs to improve employees’ mental health and overall well-being. Some employers are bringing awareness to the importance of mental health by introducing substantial initiatives, such as launching mindfulness programs for employees. Starbucks also recently announced its new mental health initiatives, which include a more robust employee assistance program. Under the new program, Starbucks’ U.S. and Canadian employees will soon have access to subscriptions to an app that offers guided meditations and breathing exercises to users on-demand. Access to this type of mental health care is increasing, since these programs are available either on-site during normal business hours or on-demand.
Retailers are also making their impact on increasing the average American's access to mental health care. Notably, Amazon Alexa has been experimenting in the therapy space, and Walmart is currently expanding its clinical offerings by opening a new clinic, Walmart Health, in Dallas, Georgia. The clinic will provide mental health services in the form of individual counseling for patients. This is not the first time that Walmart has invested in the mental health arena. In the fall of 2018, Walmart leased some of its retail space to Beacon Care Services (“Beacon”), a mental health services provider. Beacon’s co-located clinic provides mental health services to the public, including treatment for stress, depression, and anxiety. This clinic is not equipped, however, to handle severe mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia. Instead, the clinic refers those cases to the larger Beacon network. Now, less than a year later, Walmart is moving forward with Walmart Health to offer similar services in a standalone building adjacent to a Walmart retail store.
As more retailers become further entrenched in establishing clinics and urgent care centers (i.e.,CVS HealthHUB), health care providers, professionals, and consumers should stay aware of these happenings, which will directly impact behavioral health care, market trends, and competition. Current and aspiring health care professionals should also consider the provider shortages in this industry when contemplating referrals and career paths. The market is allowing for more creativity regarding how, where, and when to offer mental health services, meaning the industry will likely see substantial movement and decreased stigma around such care within the coming years.