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CVS to Offer In-Store Mental Health Counseling

A beige CVS store entrance stands between two rows of palm trees.
Johnny Louis / Contributor / Getty Images.

Key Takeaways

  • CVS Health has begun offering mental health counseling in select stores nationwide.
  • Currently the program is only available at a few locations in Florida, Texas, and Pennsylvania.
  • Studies have found that symptoms of mental illness have increased tremendously since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

From isolation to grief, the pandemic has taken a tremendous toll on everyone’s mental health. In response to the mental turmoil, there’s one coping mechanism consistently recommended: therapy. While therapy can do wonders for a person’s mental health, the cost and wait times can create painful barriers to care, leaving people to fend for their well-being without additional support.

CVS is one company is taking steps that may make mental health care more accessible. This year CVS introduced mental health counseling at a few locations nationwide. Currently, it’s available at select stores in Pennsylvania, Texas, and Florida, with counseling starting soon at a few stores in New Jersey.

CVS Health is adding licensed therapists primarily focused on treating mental health issues as a part of the MinuteClinic care team at select HealthHUB locations, establishing a new channel for real-time support and connection to appropriate mental health care,” says Ashley Karpinski, director of behavioral health strategy and innovation at CVS Health.

“In select locations, individuals can receive mental health assessments, referrals, counseling, and personalized care plans from on-site licensed therapists.” 

Counseling at the MinuteClinic

MinuteClinic is a treatment center offering medical clinics inside CVS Health stores since 2006. Previously, these clinics have focused on diagnosing minor conditions and injuries, providing vaccinations and health screenings, and monitoring patients with chronic conditions.

In 2019, the company began converting some of the 1,100 or so MinuteClinic locations into HealthHUBs, exam centers designed to have more rooms, staff, and personalized care. 

Appointments are available in-person or via telehealth. Counseling held at CVS Health stores takes place in private rooms. Sessions are available on weekdays, evenings, and weekends, providing added flexibility for people to attend. 

The Need For More Accessible Mental Health Care

Over the past year-plus, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought isolation, grief, and a significant increase in mental health issues. In a December 2020 study, 42% of participating U.S. adults reported signs of anxiety or depression, a steep jump from 11% between January and June 2019. A February 2021 review from KFF showed adults aged 18 to 24 have been more likely to report symptoms of anxiety or depression at 56%.

Ethnicity, income, and job security also played a part in the appearance of mental illnesses. During the pandemic adults in a household with lower incomes or job loss have been more likely to experience symptoms of mental illness, 53% to 32%. Non-Hispanic Black adults and Hispanic or Latino adults also reported higher rates of mental illness at 48% and 46%, respectively, compared to 41% of non-Hispanic white adults.

According to Karpinski, CVS Health hopes offering their own mental health counseling will provide some help in alleviating these disparities. 

Ashley Karpinski, director of behavioral health strategy and innovation at CVS Health

In select locations, individuals can receive mental health assessments, referrals, counseling, and personalized care plans from on-site licensed therapists.

— Ashley Karpinski, director of behavioral health strategy and innovation at CVS Health

“Over the past year, young adults and people of color have suffered particularly high instances of mental health symptoms and distress, leading to increases in emergency visits,” says Karpinski.

“With accessible, low-cost services available in community-based MinuteClinics at select HealthHUB locations, CVS Health is offering new access points for populations who are struggling with the unprecedented stressors of recent months, helping to avoid costly ER visits and providing a pathway for symptom relief.” 

The company covers the cost of therapy for Aetna insurance holders—CVS Health bought the provider in 2018—and negotiated deals with other insurance providers. Patients also have the option to pay with cash, credit card, or employee assistance program (EAP) benefits.

Offering low or no-cost options is critical to ensuring everyone who needs it can access therapy. In a May 2020 survey from SingleCare, 33% of participants said the cost of mental health care was the most significant barrier to receiving help.

Karpinski says the company is seeing good traction so far and positive early results. “We are incorporating lessons learned along the way and expect to have more information about results in the coming months,” she adds. 

What This Means For You

Currently, very few CVS Health locations offer mental health counseling. If you live near one and are looking for care, make an appointment to see if it's the right fit for you. Otherwise, seek out clinics in your area that may offer low-cost therapy options.

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Article Sources
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  2. Panchal N. The Implications of COVID-19 for Mental Health and Substance Use. KFF. https://www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/issue-brief/the-implications-of-covid-19-for-mental-health-and-substance-use/. Published February 10, 2021. Accessed May 6, 2021.

  3. Team SC. Coronavirus has affected Americans' mental health. The Checkup. https://www.singlecare.com/blog/news/mental-health-survey/. Published May 6, 2020. Accessed May 6, 2021.