A Regina based pharmacy is working to combat the stigma of mental health with a unique approach that’s being called the first of its kind in Canada.
Melanie McLeod started her career as a pharmacist 20 years ago and now she’s only one of two psychiatric pharmacists in Saskatchewan.
While her business, Vital Care, looks like a typical pharmacy and provides all the same services, it also specializes in mental health.
“A lot of patients are referred to us from the mental health community,” McLeod said. “Just having some extra knowledge about some of those conditions and having information relayed to us from the mental health team really helps us to help our patients.”
Working closely with psychiatrists, McLeod helps patients navigate the health system, from making sure the cost of medication is covered, to monitoring side effects and providing consultations.
“We’d like to see this across the province,” Rebecca Rackow, director of advocacy research and public policy development with the Canadian Mental Health Association said. “CMHA has been trying to promote more teams and community involvement that can support people with mental illness or with mental health issues and this seems like an excellent venue for support.”
McLeod is currently mentoring two pharmacists working along side her in the field of psychiatric pharmacy, to help meet the growing demand.
“We’re starting to see more pharmacists specialize in specific areas because there is so much to know about medications and medical conditions and it gets very complicated,” McLeod said.
But it’s not just mental health McLeod focuses on but communicable diseases such as hepatitis and HIV, as well as members of the transgender community.
“That was actually one of the most motivating factors for me to open the pharmacy,” McLeod said. “I found that a lot of patients were not getting access to services that they needed.”
By working to break down barriers, the hope is to see other pharmacies across the country do the same.