Beacon Health Options has expanded its partnership with Walmart (NYSE: WMT). As part of the agreement, Beacon Care Services — a subsidiary of Beacon Health Options — will provide select behavioral health services through the retail giant’s second Walmart Health center.
Boston-based Beacon is a behavioral health provider that dubs itself the country’s largest privately held company of its kind. Meanwhile, Walmart is a multinational retail corporation that recently launched a health care initiative.
The new Walmart Health facility — which is located inside a remodeled Walmart Supercenter in Calhoun, Georgia — celebrated its grand opening Wednesday.
At the center, Beacon will serve patients ages 6 and up who are experiencing mild-to-moderate mental health issues, with a focus on depression, anxiety, grief and relationship problems.
Beacon and Walmart have partnered twice before, with the all three arrangements looking fairly similar, according to Sherry Dubester, executive vice president and chief medical officer of Beacon.
“What makes the model especially exciting is that, while patients can be scheduled formally, we’re also set up for active coordination with primary care,” Dubester told Behavioral Health Business. “If they’re treating somebody and it’s clear there’s active depression or other issues, [doctors] are able to coordinate literally on the spot with behavioral health.”
That sort of care integration is a function of the center’s design. With its Walmart Health initiative, the superstore chain aims to make getting health care as convenient, affordable and accessible as getting groceries.
“We think we can make an impactful difference in affordability, convenience and, most importantly, accessibility for the Calhoun community,” Sean Slovenski, Walmart’s president of health and wellness, said in a press release announcing the facility’s opening.
“Beacon Health Options and Walmart share the common passion of providing affordable access to care,” a Walmart spokesperson told BHB in a statement. “At Walmart Health, we believe in integrated care that supports the mind, body and soul, which we are doing with great partners like primary care providers, dentists, therapists and wellness experts.”
At the new center, Beacon will staff one full-time clinician and one part-time clinician. It will also offer services via telehealth. Apart from mental health care, the clinic will also provide services ranging from primary care to dentistry and home-based care.
“It’s as much of a total-person model as I’ve seen,” Dubester said. “It’s nicely integrated with a tremendous amount of focus on patient journeys.”
That person-centric care is becoming increasingly important to Beacon. In fact, the Walmart partnership is helping the provider think creatively about how else it can deploy and integrate its services into primary care settings nationwide, Dubester said.
“It raises our confidence that we’re on the right track and that we have to find additional creative ways to [integrate care] more broadly,” she said.
Beacon first partnered with Walmart back in December 2018 to provide behavioral health services at the Walmart Care Clinic in Carrollton, Texas, where demand for Beacon’s services continues to boom.
There, in the second half of 2019, Beacon quadrupled the number of patients it served in the first half of the year.
Given Beacon’s success in Carrollton, it’s unsurprising the retail giant expanded its partnership with the provider to coincide with launch of Walmart Health. In September 2019, Walmart opened its inaugural health center location in Dallas, Georgia, where Beacon also provides services.
While Beacon provides similar offerings across all three of its Walmart locations, services are customized to fit the needs of each unique community. And at the new Calhoun, Georgia location, Beacon is looking to expand its services all together, Dubester explained.
“In addition to group, couple and individual [counseling], we’re also looking for opportunities to potentially offer some group [services] that get more into chronic condition management,” Dubester said. “Diet, diabetes and other conditions have a very high level of associated depression and anxiety.”
Beacon is hopeful its partnership with Walmart will continue to expand, too.
There will likely be plenty of opportunity to make that happen, according to a September analyst report from William Blair, which explained the company has plans to open as many as 200 more health clinic locations across the country over the next several years.
“We look forward to partnering for the behavioral health component of that in any way that makes sense because … we see the value that we can bring to patients,” Dubester said.