There are countless things you can buy in a Walmart. TVs, dishwashing detergent, all the modern creature comforts are a few crowded aisles away. But since November, a Walmart in DFW has added one item to the list: therapy.
Beacon Care Services, an offshoot of Boston-based behavioral health services company Beacon Health Options, opened its first location inside a Walmart in Carrollton on Trinity Mills Road. Public perception has been that Walmart was somehow expanding its reach to mental health counseling, which is not the case. The location is not owned by Walmart, nor does the retail chain have any control or influence on decisions made by Beacon Care Services.
Chris Carson, medical director of Beacon Care Services, is pleased with the amount of interest the practice has received in the first few months of operation.
“We’ve definitely seen growth,” Carson says. “Because it is a very brand new and very innovative kind of thing to do, we didn’t really know what to expect, and I don’t think we had necessarily any concrete expectations on that growth. I think looking back over the last few months it’s exceeded what we would have thought.”
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Beacon is available to service an array of mental health ailments. Stress and anxiety management, depression, abuse-based trauma and gender identity concerns are just a few of the issues prospective patients can set an appointment for. However, Carson does stress Beacon is an outpatient office and not an emergency room or hospital. The focus for Beacon is outpatient care, but if they assess there might be a greater issue at play, such as suicidal thoughts, the practice can make a recommendation and introduce the patient to a more qualified environment.
As the first mental health counseling practice open in such a retail space, Beacon is reviewing the long-term success before opening similar locations in Texas and beyond. For Carson and others at Beacon Care Services, the mission with opening an office in Walmart is to normalize mental health care. By having an office in such a high-traffic area, the hope is to pull mental health disorders away from the taboo, stigma-clouded perception long held with the public.
“We’re trying to mainstream and destigmatize the reality that things such as mood disorders, depression, anxiety disorders — these things are extremely common and very debilitating to people, and treatment helps,” Carson says. “So by being out there in the community, by making it mainstream — I mean nobody thinks it’s odd that there’s an optometrist in a retail setting like this. Nobody thinks it’s odd that there’s a dental clinic in something like this. Because those things are very common. Behavioral health is just as common and just as needed.”
Beacon Care Services operates as any other mental health practice would. The therapist at the location, Jacqueline Baclawski, is available for hour sessions that can be booked online, in person or over the phone. Walk-ins are welcome, but to guarantee a time slot, it’s best to make an appointment. Beacon is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday. There’s no window that shoppers can pass by to watch you seek counseling. By all comparisons, Beacon is a mental health office with the added convenience of being in a high-visibility area.