The National Council for Behavioral Health (National Council) and the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) are collaborating with Walgreens, to provide Mental Health First Aid training for certain pharmacists and team members with the national pharmacy chain.

Mental Health First Aid, administered by the National Council, trains participants in mental health literacy, understanding risk factors and warning signs for mental health and addiction concerns and strategies for how to help someone in both crisis and non-crisis situations.

Walgreens will begin the training with pharmacy staff members, including those focused on health outcomes. As part of the company’s growing commitment to workplace mental health and wellness, Walgreens is also working with the National Council to train more than 300 team members within human resources in Mental Health First Aid.

The collaborating partners are working closely together to tailor the training program for pharmacists, and it is expected to be accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education.

“With the growing need for services and resources to help those living with mental health conditions, as well as substance use and addiction, we can play an important role by giving our pharmacists and certain team members the training to help those who may be in crisis,” said Alex Gourlay, co-chief operating officer, Walgreens Boots Alliance, in a prepared statement. “We’re proud to further our commitment to improving the health and wellbeing of our communities through this initiative and working with the National Council and APhA to continue an important dialogue around mental health and how we can help.”

The initiative further builds upon Walgreens’ digital platform, launched in 2016, and resources related to mental health, as well as the company’s efforts to curb opioid misuse and abuse. According to Walgreens, more than 8 million adults in the United States are estimated to be living with a mental health condition, as well as battling addiction to opioids or other substances.

“One in 5 people experiences a mental health or substance use issue in a given year and it’s likely that most of those individuals use a pharmacy’s services during that year,” said Betsy Schwartz, vice president of public education and strategic initiatives at the National Council for Behavioral Health, in a prepared statement. “Thanks to the leadership of Walgreens, the National Council and APhA, pharmacists trained in Mental Health First Aid can be a first line of help for people when they possibly need it most.”

Through the new collaboration, Mental Health First Aid training will eventually become available to any pharmacist industry-wide, and with the opportunity to earn continuing education credits through APhA. The training can benefit patients, as well as pharmacists, at a critical time.

“APhA is pleased to play an active role in this partnership,” said APhA CEO Thomas E. Menighan, BSPharm, MBA, ScD (Hon), FAPhA. “We applaud Walgreens, the National Council, practitioners and all other employers who recognize and meet the needs of pharmacists and the patients they serve. The issues of substance use and mental health are real and acute. Arming our front lines with these training and educational resources is a strong move in addressing this crisis.”

In the workplace, Walgreens offers a wide variety of services through its free employee assistance program, including an allotment of behavioral health visits available at no cost for team members and their families. All Walgreens-sponsored medical and prescription drug plans also include comprehensive mental health care for eligible employees.


Walgreens Forms Unique Collaboration with National Council for Behavioral Health and American Pharmacists Association to Offer Mental Health First Aid Training for Pharmacists and Team Members [news release]. Deerfield, IL; May 1, 2019: Walgreens. Accessed May 1, 2019.