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In 2010, 26% of women and 15% of men were taking an antidepressant, antipsychotic, anti-anxiety, or ADHD drug. With a U.S. population of 316 million, a conservative estimate is that more than 7 million Americans meet criteria for either schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. In contrast, there are 1140 members (pharmacists) of CPNP and 804 pharmacists holding the Board Certified Psychiatric Pharmacist (BCPP) credentials. Given this disproportion, how can psychiatric pharmacists have an impact on the millions of Americans who could benefit from our expertise and care?

While CPNP’s appropriate mission and focus is on neuropsychiatric pharmacists and aspiring neuropsychiatric pharmacists, the CPNP Foundation seeks ways to have a broader impact on the millions of patients who are being treated for psychiatric disorders who do not have the benefit of a psychiatric pharmacist’s care. 

One approach to this concern is for us to examine how psychiatric pharmacists might engage our community pharmacist partners to enhance their knowledge and skills in caring for patients with psychiatric disorders. Most of those millions of patients do have some kind of relationship with a community pharmacy. This is why the Foundation’s very first project was to conduct a national survey of National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) members to better understand their relationship with their community pharmacists. Several lessons were learned from this survey - while half of patients had a strong professional relationship with their pharmacist, 43% had no such relationship, meaning many do not know that such a relationship could be of value to them. Illustrative comments included:

  • “I cherish my relationship with my pharmacists.”
  • “I never really thought about whether the interaction/involvement of the pharmacist was something that was important or was supposed to be happening. I just go there, pick up and pay for my meds and leave.”

These results suggest that we should find ways to educate and empower patients and caregivers to expect more from their community pharmacists. 

Other survey results suggest that community pharmacists are often not providing the level of care that is needed. Fifty-four percent (54%) almost always or often received information about their medication, but 25% seldom or never received such information, and 75% did not receive effectiveness or safety monitoring assistance from their pharmacist. 

With these findings in mind, the Foundation has established several goals for the next two years focused on both patients and community pharmacists. 

Patients:

1. Develop a guide for individuals with psychiatric and neurologic disorders describing the care that should be expected from their pharmacy and pharmacist.

Several Foundation Board members and CPNP members are in the final stages of creating the Guide: What patients/families/caregivers should expect from their community pharmacy/pharmacist

2. Serve as a resource for patients and caregivers in identifying and accessing pharmacy providers that deliver evidence-based care.

The Foundation has also begun work on the MENTAL HEALTH COMMUNITY PHARMACY DIRECTORY PROJECT, which seeks to identify and publish a national directory of mental health community pharmacies.    

Pharmacists:

3. For pharmacists in general practice settings, promote best practice guidelines for serving individuals living with psychiatric and neurologic disorders and direct these pharmacists to appropriate resources.

4. Develop education and training opportunities, tools, and resources for pharmacists in general practice settings designed to improve their communication skills, competence, and their ability to reduce stigma.

The Foundation is currently in the discussion phase of determining how to best approach how we enhance the knowledge and skills of community pharmacists to better serve our patient population. We believe, as psychiatric pharmacists, we have a responsibility to connect, collaborate, and support our community pharmacist colleagues. 

What is hopefully very obvious is that your Foundation has matured, and is aggressively pursuing an ambitious set of goals. We seek your input regarding the best approaches to begin addressing goals 3 and 4 above. Within the CPNP community, we know you have some creative ideas and experiences that can help with this effort. As psychiatric pharmacists, how can we better support the work of pharmacists in the community as they care for our patients? What do our patients need that community pharmacists can provide? If you have suggestions, please send them to me, the CPNP Foundation office, on the CPNP listserv and I will make sure they are communicated to those who are working on these goals.

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