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CVS Expands Mental Health Counseling Throughout Florida Via Telehealth

A woman looks at her smartphone courtesy of CVS MinuteClinic
A woman looks at her smartphone courtesy of CVS MinuteClinic

The CVS pharmacy chain, which began offering in-person  mental health counseling at a handful of Tampa-area stores this year, is now offering those services via telehealth throughout Florida.

Cathy Bedy, a licensed clinical social worker who works out of the Bardmoor CVS in Seminole, said the option makes it easier for people seeking a provider without the wait associated with securing a therapist appointment.

Because of excessive demand, getting into a provider can take as long as three months, valuable time when someone is in need.

“In that three-month time, the anxiety grows, the depression gets worse, and they might just stop reaching out to people for help,” said Bedy, who has been practicing for more than two decades.

“So, with telehealth, we can get people in within 24 hours of their request.”

Bedy hears a variety of concerns from clients. Anxiety is pervasive because of the isolation brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“What people are bringing up is going back into the workplace as being difficult. They’ve been at home and working from home, and now their whole schedule will change again,” Bedy said. “Also, for some of these families, the child care just isn’t there right now. And so that’s a big concern for some of these parents.”

She said people need to know they are not alone.

“The other thing is helping people kind of sit back and work at normalization of their thoughts and feelings,” she said. “A lot of people are very scared about the future or definitely have some concerns about the future. And I think this offers them a chance to normalize this."

“But also it allows them a chance to learn some coping skills, and to learn, you know, how to look at life without just looking at all the stressors.”

Bedy said people can sometimes use their employee assistance program benefits through work to pay for the counseling, or use their private insurance.

CVS said it provides these telehealth services through its E-Clinic: private mental health assessments, counseling, personalized care plans and referrals to a higher level of care as needed through a video consultation.

CVS began a pilot program in January to bring counseling services to some of its stores. The company also said it was negotiating with insurance companies to try and reduce the costs of mental health care.

The pilot includes six stores in the greater Tampa Bay region, a handful in Houston and Philadelphia, and plans to expand to 34 outlets this year. The program is an extension of CVS’ HealthHUBs, which exist in 650 of its nearly 10,000 stores.