Beacon introduces mental health pilot program at Walmart

Beacon Health Options, a clinical mental health and substance use disorder management company in Boston, aims to bring affordable mental healthcare to patients across the U.S. through the creation of a new retail health clinic, The Boston Globe reports.

Beacon opened its first retail health clinic in a Carrollton, Texas-based Walmart and plans to open more locations nationwide to increase patients' access to mental health services.

The clinic, which has been operational for roughly one week, is staffed by one licensed social worker and offers treatment for anxiety, depression, grief and relationship issues, among other stressors. Patients can walk in to request an appointment, or sign up online or over the phone. If the clinic becomes busy, patients also have the option to speak to other Beacon care professionals remotely by Skype or other services, the report states.

Russell Petrella, PhD, president and CEO of Beacon Health Options, told The Boston Globe the clinic has a sliding-fee schedule for patients without insurance and is in the process of getting approved for Medicaid reimbursement in Texas. The company created subsidiary Beacon Care Services to operate the retail clinics.

"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," Dr. Petrella said. "We're trying to mainstream behavioral health services."

While some healthcare professionals The Boston Globe spoke with were intrigued by the concept, others said Beacon would need to do much more to make the concept mainstream.

"Offering mental healthcare in a retail setting is innovative and imaginative, and it could work," Gary A. Chinman, MD, a psychiatrist and president of the Massachusetts Psychiatric Society, told the publication. However, he said Beacon "would have to change a lot more about their business model for [the clinics] to be successful."

To access the full report, click here.

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