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Jerry McKee, PharmD, MS, BCPP
Carla Cobb, PharmD, BCPP


Pharmacists in the community are an integral and vital component of the mental health care system for patients and their caregivers. For patients with psychiatric and neurologic illness, there are many barriers to accessing optimal care, including (to name a few) lack of information, limited financial resources, inadequate transportation, and stigma. To further our understanding of stigma and social distancing among community parmacists, the Foundation is collaborating with Dr. Vincent Giannetti and colleagues at Duquesne University to explore community parmacists' knowledge of and attitudes toward mental illness and the services they provide.

Jerry McKee, PharmD, MS, BCPPIt is well known that people with mental illnesses and certain neurologic disorders are treated differently than those without these disorders, even by healthcare professionals. These biases can serve as barriers to patients receiving optimal care, can hinder them from realizing their potential, and can be detrimental to their sense of well-being. It is essential that everyone, including healthcare professionals, think about their own biases and make certain that our preconceived notions are in sync with research findings. For several years, the Foundation has supported programming and projects at the CPNP Annual Meetings which have brought the patient’s perspectives on their illness and their treatment to the forefront. In many cases these projects and presentations have shined a light on stigma. 

In a related effort, the CPNP Foundation, in collaboration with the National Alliance on Mental Carla Cobb, PharmD, BCPPIllness, conducted an online survey of individuals with mental health conditions or family members about their interactions with their community pharmacists. Over 1,000 individuals responded to the survey with 65 percent of respondents being individuals with a mental health condition. Eighty percent of all respondents reported that they exclusively used a community pharmacy to fill their prescriptions for mental health medications. It is clear from the survey that many respondents and their families valued their relationship with their pharmacist. Responses revealed several opportunities for improvement, such as more access to pharmacists, more privacy, better professional relationship-building, and increased monitoring for effectiveness and safety of mental health medications. These relationships between pharmacists and patients, built on trust and respect, are ones that the Foundation hopes to grow with their work in the area of better understanding stigma and efforts aimed at stigma reduction.

Stigma Research Project

To further our understanding of stigma and social distancing among community pharmacists, the Foundation is collaborating with Dr. Vincent Giannetti and colleagues, Drs. Kamal and Covvey, at the Duquesne University Mylan School of Pharmacy, Division of Clinical, Social, and Administrative Sciences to explore community pharmacists’ knowledge of and attitudes toward mental illness and the services they provide. Dr. Giannetti is a licensed psychologist, and he and his colleagues have experience in survey, database, and interventional studies and have published in the areas of pharmacoeconomics, adherence, health economics, and mental health and substance abuse. In this study, barriers to counseling patients and pharmacists’ beliefs about patients with mental illness will be evaluated via a comprehensive survey completed by a national sample of community pharmacists. The objectives of this work are to assess the baseline knowledge and attitudes regarding mental illness among community pharmacists. These findings will be useful to the Foundation, other researchers, and professional pharmacy organizations in developing programs and initiatives to reduce stigma and its consequences as experienced by those with mental illness in their interactions with community pharmacists. 

The findings of this research will be the first published data assessing biases of community pharmacists toward patients with mental illness. This work is intended to encourage pharmacists to keep an open mind and continuously educate themselves and others about mental illnesses, its causes, manifestations, and treatment. By reaching out to patients to learn about their personal experiences in living with these illnesses, and by working  with students, residents, pharmacists, and other healthcare professionals to better understand their knowledge and attitudes toward mental illness, fear and discomfort among providers can be addressed, hopefully ultimately improving quality of care and patient outcomes.

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