CVS Health celebrates the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act passing and its longstanding culture of inclusion

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A graphic containing stylized text reading: We're IN for inclusion! We scored "100" on the 2020 Disability Equality Index (DEI).

Before the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, was passed in 1990, people with disabilities faced challenges in employment, transportation and other areas critical to their everyday lives. The ADA was enacted to prohibit discrimination based on disability across the United States. This month, CVS Health celebrates the 30th anniversary of ADA, and the company’s abiding work to create opportunities for meaningful employment for people with disabilities.

Fostering a culture of inclusion is a critical priority for CVS Health. The company has invested in its Workforce Initiatives and its highly successful Abilities in Abundance program, which breaks down the employment barriers people with disabilities face every day.

Over the last two decades, more than 55 Abilities in Abundance programs nationwide have helped thousands of people with disabilities find meaningful employment opportunities within CVS pharmacies and other CVS Health locations. In collaboration with the National Consortium of State-Operated Comprehensive Rehabilitation Centers, schools and non-profits, individuals with disabilities have the opportunity to work closely with trained staff to gain experience in customer service, in-store and pharmacy technician positions. Through the program, each participant receives classroom and hands-on training in mock pharmacies, which provides a holistic view of daily responsibilities.

Inclusion is deeply rooted in CVS Health’s purpose of helping people on their path to better health and continues to permeate the company’s innovation strategy. Recently, CVS Health launched Spoken Rx™, a new feature of the CVS Pharmacy app that can read a specific type of label for patients with visual impairments and those who cannot read standard print labels. Spoken Rx is the first in-app prescription reader application to be developed by a national retail pharmacy.

Additionally, 2020 was the fourth consecutive year that CVS Health earned a top score of 100 on the Disability Equality Index (DEI). The DEI, which launched in 2015 as a joint initiative between Diversity:IN and the American Association of People with Disabilities, is recognized as the most extensive disability inclusion assessment tool designed and embraced by both business leaders and disability advocates.

David Casey, Vice President, Workforce Strategies & Chief Diversity Officer at CVS Health, had the opportunity to speak at this year’s Annual Disability:IN Conference to underscore CVS Health’s inclusive workplace culture and the comprehensive work the company does to support and recruit individuals with disabilities.

“I believe our diversified workforce is the cornerstone of our business, and for CVS Health to thrive, we need different worldviews, races and ethnicities, backgrounds, abilities and ages,” said Casey. “As we move forward into the next decade of our Abilities in Abundance program and beyond, we’re continually looking at other ways to break down employment barriers that individuals with disabilities continue to face.” 

A graphic containing stylized text reading: We're IN for inclusion! We scored "100" on the 2020 Disability Equality Index (DEI).
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Addressing systemic racism and inequality

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CVS Health is investing nearly $600 million over five years to advance employee, community and public policy initiatives that address inequality faced by the Black community and other disenfranchised communities. The company will also use its position to advocate for public policy that addresses the root causes of systemic inequalities and barriers, including efforts to address socioeconomic status, education, and access to health care.

“While we know that CVS Health alone cannot erase the toll that 400 years of institutionalized racism and discrimination has taken on the Black community, we recognize that we have a role to play in living up to the potential the future holds.”

— David Casey, Chief Diversity Officer, CVS Health

CVS Health’s investment will focus on improving the employee experience, supporting communities the company serves and influencing public policy. The company’s nearly $600 million investment will build on its longstanding commitments to foster diversity in its workplace, including the following areas:

Colleagues and corporate culture

These investments will support the company’s commitment to ensuring that colleagues have fair and equitable access to opportunities for advancement and development at all levels, including senior-level positions. CVS Health will be working to ensure its mentoring, sponsorship and employee development programs support the advancement of employees, with a heightened focus on the experience of our Black colleagues. And the company will focus on corporate culture programs and company-wide training that promotes active and purposeful inclusion.

“The private sector must take action to get to the heart of institutional racism. As we learn from the perspectives of our Black colleagues and the diverse communities we serve, we’ll use that input to inform our advocacy agenda going forward.”

— Larry J. Merlo, President and CEO, CVS Health

Supplier diversity

Investments in CVS Health’s supplier diversity program will further the company’s focus on sourcing products from Black-owned and other diverse businesses by connecting, engaging, and networking with diverse suppliers, advocacy organizations, and corporate partners. The company will also continue working with national organizations to identify and develop diverse businesses. By working with business units across the company to integrate supplier diversity into procurement activities, CVS Health is able to continue to expand business opportunities for these diverse businesses. And as part of the company’s commitment to the Black community, it will create additional opportunities and development programs for its diverse suppliers. This work will build on the program’s success in creating jobs and increasing economic opportunities for the people and local businesses in the communities CVS Health serves. 

Workforce initiatives

Investments to bolster CVS Health’s Workforce Initiatives will build on the company’s highly successful relationships to provide employment services and training to underserved communities. Through these programs, CVS Health works with local, state and federal workforce agencies to provide employment services and training to underserved communities. Through work with schools, universities, community colleges, faith-based and community organizations, these programs have helped thousands of people access meaningful employment opportunities.

“Our more than 300,000 employees are a microcosm of America, and a reflection of the diversity that is foundational to who we are as a country. The strategic agenda we’re laying out today will harness the strength of that diversity and focus on the areas where we can have the greatest impact.”

— Larry J. Merlo, President and CEO, CVS Health

Addressing health disparities

Health care is local. Addressing health disparities in the community is critical to addressing racial inequality, which is why CVS Health will expand its Project Health initiative and make other investments to increase access to health care. Project Health provides free health screening events at select CVS Pharmacy locations nationwide, focused within communities with large multicultural and uninsured populations. Project Health offers an array of free comprehensive health assessment screenings, including body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, glucose and total cholesterol screenings, which can help detect risk for chronic conditions like diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease, which disproportionately impact Black people and other communities of color. The screening events also feature further information on weight management, diabetes resources, and smoking cessation programs. Increased investments in Project Health will strengthen CVS Health’s continued commitment to improve access to health care and help prevent cost from being a barrier to important preventive services.

Social determinants of health

Because studies have shown that your zip code can have as much impact on your health as your genetic code, CVS Health will focus on social determinants of health in Black and underserved communities. This work will have a particular emphasis on increasing access to affordable housing, which is inextricably linked to health. Since 1997, CVS Health and Aetna, a CVS Health company, have invested more than $1 billion in affordable housing and community initiatives. In 2019, the company invested $67 million in affordable housing across the country and the company plans to exceed that amount over the next five years to help address housing insecurities and promote community health improvement. Investments in affordable housing, as well as collaborations with community groups in these areas, help provide support to those who need it most.

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CVS Health commits nearly $600 million to address racial inequality

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WOONSOCKET, R.I. — CVS Health (NYSE: CVS) today announced it will invest nearly $600 million over five years to advance employee, community and public policy initiatives that address inequality faced by Black people and other disenfranchised communities. The investment follows a commitment from President and CEO Larry Merlo to evaluate how the company operates and how it can use its influence to be a force for good in communities across the country.

"Our nearly 300,000 employees are a microcosm of America, and a reflection of the diversity that is foundational to who we are as a country," said Merlo. "The strategic agenda we're laying out today will harness the strength of that diversity and focus on the areas where we can have the greatest impact."

CVS Health's investment will focus on improving the employee experience, supporting communities the company serves, and influencing public policy. Collectively the company will invest nearly $600 million in the following areas to build on its longstanding commitment to diversity:

  • Mentoring, sponsorship, development and advancement of diverse employees;

  • Company-wide training and corporate culture programs, with a focus on promoting inclusion;

  • Workforce initiatives, including building on the company's highly successful partnerships to provide employment services and training to underserved communities;

  • Social determinants of health, with a particular emphasis on increasing access to affordable housing, which is inextricably linked to health;

  • Access to health care, including expanding Project Health and other investments that address health disparities; and

  • Partnerships with civil rights and social justice organizations to support shared goals.

CVS Health will also use its position to advocate for public policy that addresses the root causes of systemic inequalities and barriers, including efforts to address socioeconomic status, education, and access to health care.

"The private sector must take action to get to the heart of institutional racism," Merlo continued. "As we learn from the perspectives of our Black colleagues and the diverse communities we serve, we'll use that input to inform our advocacy agenda going forward."

About CVS Health

CVS Health employees are united around a common goal of becoming the most consumer-centric health company. We're evolving based on changing consumer needs and meeting people where they are, whether that's in the community at one of our nearly 10,000 local touchpoints, in the home, or in the palm of their hand. Our newest offerings from HealthHUB locations that are redefining what a pharmacy can be, to innovative programs that help manage chronic conditions are designed to create a higher-quality, simpler and more affordable experience. Learn more about how we're transforming health at www.cvshealth.com.

Media contact

Erin Britt
erin.britt@cvshealth.com

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CVS Pharmacy introduces new app feature for reading “talking” prescription labels

CVS Pharmacy introduces new app feature for reading “talking” prescription labels
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New Spoken Rx feature in the CVS Pharmacy app is the result of a collaboration with the American Council of the Blind

WOONSOCKET, R.I. — CVS Pharmacy announced that it has developed Spoken Rx, a new feature of the CVS Pharmacy app that can read a specific type of label for patients with visual impairments and those who cannot read standard print labels. Spoken Rx is the first in-app prescription reader application to be developed by a national retail pharmacy.

By the end of 2020, 1,500 CVS Pharmacy locations will be equipped to affix special RFID labels to prescription vials. When the RFID labels are scanned by Spoken Rx in the CVS Pharmacy app, which can be accessed by users using Siri or Google Assistant on their phones, prescription label information will be spoken out loud. This information, which is important for patient safety and adherence, currently includes patient name, medication name, dosage and directions and will be enhanced to include additional information over the months to come. Spoken Rx will be available in all CVS Pharmacy locations by the end of 2021.

Enrollment in the program is seamless and can be done either over the phone or in store where a pharmacist can ensure the patient's app is appropriately set up for the service. Spoken Rx is free to CVS Pharmacy patients and the app will read prescription label information aloud in either English or Spanish.

"The in-app feature gives patients more flexibility, providing the pertinent prescription information out loud wherever and whenever they need it," said Ryan Rumbarger, Senior Vice President, Store Operations at CVS Health. "Spoken Rx provides a more seamless experience to our patients who are visually impaired."

Today's announcement is the result of collaboration between CVS Pharmacy and the American Council of the Blind, which worked with CVS and tested the technology throughout its development.

"Spoken Rx is a positive step that offers same-day, access for prescriptions filled in CVS stores, allowing for a greater level of privacy, safety, and independence for blind and visually impaired customers of all ages," said Kim Charlson, immediate past president of the American Council of the Blind." We're pleased about this addition to the existing braille, audio, and large print accessible prescription label offerings provided by CVS Caremark and CVS.com."

For more information on Spoken Rx and a list of active stores please visit CVS.com/spokenrx

About CVS Health

CVS Health employees are united around a common goal of becoming the most consumer-centric health company. We're evolving based on changing consumer needs and meeting people where they are, whether that's in the community at one of our nearly 10,000 local touchpoints, in the home, or in the palm of their hand. Our newest offerings from HealthHUB locations that are redefining what a pharmacy can be, to innovative programs that help manage chronic conditions are designed to create a higher-quality, simpler and more affordable experience. Learn more about how we're transforming health at www.cvshealth.com.

About American Council of the Blind (ACB)

American Council of the Blind is a national consumer-based advocacy organization working on behalf of blind and visually impaired individuals throughout the country with members organized through seventy state and special interest affiliates. ACB is dedicated to improving the quality of life, equality of opportunity and independence of all people who have visual impairments. Their members and affiliated organizations have a long history of commitment to the advancement of policies and programs which will enhance independence for people who are blind and visually impaired. More information about ACB can be found by visiting www.acb.org.

Media contacts

Stephanie Cunha
CVS Pharmacy
Stephanie.Cunha@CVSHealth.com

Kim Charlson
American Council of the Blind
Phone: 617-501-5752
kimcharlson@acb.org

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COVID-19 data reveals huge health disparities

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Forty-six-year-old Angelene Sailes always helped those in need. The Detroit resident enjoyed looking after her nieces and nephews and volunteered regularly in her church community, says her cousin Marquitta Sailes

So it was especially painful when Angelene died alone in the hospital on March 26 of COVID-19 complications. “There was no one there with her in her final moments,” says Sailes. “It didn’t have to be that way.”

Compounding the devastation was the hindsight that Angelene lacked critical information about the risks for COVID-19 at its onset.

Statistics now show that Black people are dying from COVID-19 at a rate that is nearly two times higher than their share of the nationwide populationhttps://covidtracking.com/race?fbclid=IwAR1L-IN8L3INPqsaXjl_TY7UM7LTtuygKUA7tdkL3CROPWv6Hg8MJCkKq78, according to data from The COVID Tracking Project and the Antiracist Research & Policy Center. In hard-hit states like Michigan, the rate is nearly three times greater.

Angelene Sailes and Marquitta Sailes.
Angelene and Marquitta. Angelene died alone at age 46 from COVID-19 complications.
“It just breaks my heart because we're dealing with two pandemics. We’re dealing with racism and we’re dealing with a virus that’s killing more African Americans.” — Marquitta Sailes
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Research is finding that the social determinants of health, which include housing, education and employment, are linked to increased risks of COVID-19 infections and deaths.

“We have seen the COVID-19 pandemic expose clear problems that our health care system has been facing for many years, including disparities in potentially deadly conditions based on people’s race and ethnicity,” says Dr. Garth Graham, Vice President, Community Health and Impact, CVS Health. “Social determinants can directly impact someone’s overall health and life expectancy, so in a situation like a pandemic, this issue is amplified, especially in at-risk communities.”

Understanding that more work needs to be done, CVS Health is prioritizing the needs of Black communities as it expands COVID-19 testing nationwide.

Health disparities, race and COVID-19 risks

As data surrounding COVID-19 continues to bring America’s health disparities into greater focus, findings show Black people are being impacted at a disproportionate rate across the country.

Read the infographic.

Over half the company’s more than 1,400 testing sites serve moderate to high needs communities, as measured by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Social Vulnerability Index. While these sites primarily accommodate drive-through customers, CVS Health is also launching new no-cost walk-up testing sites in underserved communities. Since March, CVS Health has conducted 1 million COVID-19 tests nationwide.

“Through our partnerships, we are able to reach people who may lack easy access to testing,” says David Casey, Vice President, Workforce Strategies & Chief Diversity Officer, CVS Health. “By working together to address racial disparities, we can flatten the curve and help save lives.”

Several people walking into a CVS Health community test center in Atlanta, Georgia.
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Get the right care for you – even during a pandemic

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By Dr. Garth Graham, MD, MPH, Vice President, Community Health & Impact, CVS Health, and Oliver T. Brooks, MD, President, National Medical Association

This story was also featured in U.S.News & World Report.

We have all seen the devastating impact that COVID-19 has had in communities across the country. And as we’ve watched the case numbers and death toll rise, we’ve seen an unsurprising trend: The virus began to level a disproportionate blow to minority and underserved populations.

This trend has continued, with Black and Hispanic communities across the United States showing more significant effects from COVID-19 compared with other demographic groups, whether through greater financial impacts, higher rates of infection or higher rates of death. When age is taken into account, the death rate for Black Americans is 3.6 times that of whites, and Hispanics' is 2.5 times higher, according to recent research from the Brookings Institution

While elected leaders, public health officials and the business community have worked together to reach into communities with expanded testing and other resources, we know we’re treating a symptom of a larger issue. One in 2 Americans have a chronic disease, and it is well-documented that members of underserved communities face higher rates of conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that young Black Americans are living with diseases more common at older ages, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke. Hispanic and Latino Americans have a 50% chance of developing type 2 diabetes.

We are working to address these racial and ethnic disparities in treatment and care that public health experts have known about for years, and that the COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare. Today, that mission is more critical than ever before as both of these crises converge to create another negative consequence of the pandemic: Many people with chronic conditions are delaying care due to fear of contracting COVID-19 in a health care setting. 

According to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll, nearly half of Americans said either they or someone in their household has skipped or delayed needed medical care because of the coronavirus. Alarmingly, a significant share of those who postponed care reported that they or their family member's condition worsened as a result.  According to a New York Times editorial by leaders of the Cleveland Clinic and the Mayo Clinic, cancer diagnoses are down by 45 percent, and reports of heart attack and stroke are down by 38 and 30 percent, respectively – all indicating that individuals are not seeking care for acute emergencies or getting regular screenings.

While much is still unknown about COVID-19, the impacts of these devastating conditions are well-known, and treatment and preventive care protocols are well-established. It is absolutely critical for those suffering or at risk to continue regular doctor visits and seek treatment in the event of a medical emergency such as a stroke or heart attack. Aetna, a CVS Health company, is using data analytics to identify members with chronic conditions who may be at higher risk for COVID-19 and providing support to not only keep them from contracting the disease, but also to make sure they are continuing to receive the care they need for their existing health issues. 

Health care professionals across the country understand this issue and are making themselves more readily available for health issues not related to COVID-19, while at the same time creating protocols to keep their patients safe. Telehealth has experienced a huge surge in adoption over the past few months, allowing patients and providers to connect virtually without risk of exposure to the virus. In fact, the utilization of telemedicine for virtual visits through CVS Health MinuteClinic is up by nearly 600% compared with the first quarter of 2019. 

Yet even though the ability to see patients virtually can be a huge advantage in helping limit the spread of COVID-19, there are certain health issues that benefit from being addressed in a person-to-person setting. Making sure that people know it is safe to receive care in a clinical setting if it is needed is absolutely essential to maintaining the overall health of the population, particularly for individuals with chronic diseases.

While it is an uncertain time for our nation’s health, and we’re only beginning to see the ripple effects of gaps in treatment for chronic diseases, our aim is always to care for the patients we serve, especially the most vulnerable. That’s why we’re trying to help educate all Americans about the importance of maintaining treatment for chronic disease, dispel fears preventing people from going to the hospital or doctor’s office, and provide key resources and tools for patients and health care providers alike. The National Medical Association and other community-focused organizations can serve as trusted resources and deliver this message to underserved populations.

We all have a role to play in combating the health inequities that have plagued our underserved communities for many years. The impacts of COVID-19 have placed a bright light on that mission over the last few months and have made that work even more important.

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CVS Health launches ‘Transform Health 2030’ corporate social responsibility strategy with its 13th annual CSR report

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WOONSOCKET, R.I. — CVS Health (NYSE: CVS) today launched its 13th annual corporate social responsibility (CSR) report and unveiled Transform Health 2030, the company’s new CSR roadmap for the next decade. The report lays the groundwork for how the company will transform health in four priority areas: Healthy People, Healthy Business, Healthy Community and Healthy Planet. It outlines the ways CVS Health is simplifying the health care system, supporting the personal and professional development of colleagues, investing in community health at the local level and setting bold goals to reduce environmental impact.

“Our corporate social responsibility strategy, Transform Health 2030, reflects our commitment to bringing transformative change to health care access and delivery, while meeting and exceeding the needs of our patients, members, customers, clients, colleagues, supply chain and environment,” said Eileen Howard Boone, Senior Vice President, Corporate Social Responsibility & Philanthropy and Chief Sustainability Officer for CVS Health.

This year’s report is the first that includes data of the newly combined enterprise following CVS Health’s combination with Aetna. The Transform Health 2030 roadmap was developed based on outcomes of the company’s comprehensive materiality assessment, conducted in 2019.

Each pillar of the Transform Health 2030 strategy leverages the assets, scale and expertise of CVS Health to create impact. These pillars and associated accomplishments covered in the 2019 CSR report include:

Healthy Peopledelivering on CVS Health’s purpose of helping people on their path to better health across all its touchpoints:

  • Launched more than 50 HealthHUB® locations by the end of 2019, offering a variety of services to help improve health outcomes and transform the consumer health experience at the local level, including managing chronic conditions, supporting nutritional health and providing community wellness spaces.

  • MinuteClinic became the first retail healthcare organization to receive the Pathways to Excellence designation from the American Nurses Credentialing Center.

  • Expanded CarePass nationally, bringing simplified value to our customers while making it easier for them to care for themselves and their loved ones.

Healthy Businessfostering a business that creates value for CVS Health’s colleagues, shareholders, partners and supply chain:

  • Generated $5.6 billion in economic impact and created 35,000 jobs for minority and women-owned businesses through a best-in-class supplier diversity program.

  • Released Commitment to Responsible Marketing Practices, which demonstrates the company’s beliefs and aligns to its business strategy. The Commitment is brought to life through the CVS Beauty Mark, a watermark that signifies imagery advertising beauty and personal care products has not been digitally altered.

Healthy Communitydelivering significant social impact to support the health of communities across the U.S. and improve health outcomes in the communities CVS Health serves:

  • Helped address social determinants of health by delivering $6.4 million in free health care services to 70,000 participants through Project Health in 2019 and investing a total of $50 million in affordable housing.

  • Announced a new, three-year $10 million collaboration with the Alzheimer’s Association to provide care and support services for patients, families and caregivers while advancing research toward prevention and a cure.

  • Continued to invest in building the first tobacco-free generation, with CVS Health and the CVS Health and Aetna Foundations awarding more than $16 million in grants to organizations that provide tobacco-free programming for youth, educators and clinicians.

Healthy Planetrecognizing that the health of the environment is inextricably linked to human health, CVS Health is committed to doing its part as a health care leader:

  • Earned a place on the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index (DJSI World) for the first time and named to DJSI North America for the seventh time, recognizing CVS Health’s sustainability leadership. The company was also recognized by the global environmental non-profit CDP, earning a place on the CDP A List and recognition as a CDP Supplier Engagement Leader.

  • Removed oxybenzone and octinoxate from all store brand sunscreens in advance of laws banning these chemicals in Hawaii and Key West, Fla.

  • Removed BPS from CVS Pharmacy customer receipts to increase their recyclability, while enrolling 1.1 million customers in digital receipts in 2019 for a savings of 48 million yards of receipt paper.

CVS Health’s 2019 CSR report was developed in accordance with the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Sustainability Reporting Standards, a global framework widely used by organizations to report on CSR and sustainability performance, and is aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The report is available online at cvshealth.com/social-responsibility.

About CVS Health

CVS Health employees are united around a common goal of becoming the most consumer-centric health company in the world. We’re evolving based on changing consumer needs and meeting people where they are, whether that’s in the community at one of our nearly 10,000 local touchpoints, in the home, or in the palm of their hand. Our newest offerings — from HealthHUB® locations that are redefining what a pharmacy can be, to innovative programs that help manage chronic conditions — are designed to create a higher-quality, simpler and more affordable experience. Learn more about how we’re transforming health at www.cvshealth.com.

Media contact

Erin Britt
401-770-9237
erin.britt@cvshealth.com

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Focusing on solutions for CVS Pharmacy patients

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Saurabh Mistry’s personal motto is “Don’t focus on the obstacles, always focus and devote your energies on the solution.” It’s a mindset that was instilled in Mistry at an early age by his father while growing up in India and one that he tries to pass along to his team every day as a pharmacy manager at a CVS Pharmacy in Texas.

Mistry’s solutions-driven approach to his work is part of what earned him a 2019 Paragon Award, which recognizes the best-of-the-best among CVS Health colleagues who deliver direct care to patients and customers. Now in its 29th year, the Paragon Awards honor colleagues who embody the core values of CVS Health.

Giving back also drives much of Mistry’s work. Whether it’s returning to his home country to help his childhood community, going the extra mile to ensure his pharmacy patients are being prescribed the proper medications or proactively working to save his patients money, Mistry always strives to help others.

Watch above to learn more about the fulfillment Mistry gets from his work and why he’s always aiming to be the best and have the best team in place for his patients.

A photo of Saurabh Mistry behind the pharmacy counter.
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Making a difference in the lives of CVS Pharmacy customers

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For CVS Pharmacy Training Store Manager Pablo Heredia, putting his store colleagues and customers first is a natural extension of the commitment he has for his family.

“I tell my team, ‘Most of our patients are people that you don’t know what they’re dealing with, you don’t know the pain they have,’” Heredia explains.

That empathetic perspective helped Heredia earn a 2019 Paragon Award, which recognizes the best-of-the-best among CVS Health colleagues who deliver direct care to patients and customers. Now in its 29th year, the Paragon Awards honor colleagues who embody the core values of CVS Health.

Whether it’s making sure every pharmacy patient knows about the Rx Savings Finder, or training to become a pharmacy technician, Heredia is dedicated to making sure that every customer gets the best care possible when they walk into his San Diego, California, store, and inspires his team to do the same.

Watch above to learn more about what motivates Heredia daily to make a difference in the lives of his store customers.

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Building lifelong connections for children in foster care

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Groups of child welfare professionals work as teams.
Groups of Kansas Department for Children and Families' child welfare professionals and other child welfare professionals from agencies across the state work as teams at the Family Finding Boot Camp. Credit: Evert Nelson/The Topeka Capital-Journal
Kevin Campbell addresses about 100 social workers during an event.
Kevin Campbell, founder of the Center for Family Finding and Youth Connectedness, trains about 100 Kansas social workers during the Family Finding Boot Camp. Credit: Evert Nelson/The Topeka Capital-Journal

For many of us, the concept of finding family members often involves searching on a genealogy site or signing up for an at-home DNA testing kit. There is an element of fun and intrigue, inspiring individuals to better understand their family roots. For many young children and teens in foster care, however, locating family members isn’t a pastime, but a necessity for daily living. These connections will help them grow and thrive.

Recently, more than 100 child welfare professionals in Kansas participated in the Family Finding Boot Camp, led by child and family welfare expert Kevin Campbell. Aetna Better Health of Kansas, the Kansas Department of Children and Families (DCF), and Casey Family Programs sponsored the four-day event. As the founder of the Family Finding model, Campbell spoke about key methods and strategies to locate and engage relatives of children currently living in out-of-home care. The goal of Family Finding is to connect each child with a family or a “network” (blood relative or not), so that every child may benefit from the lifelong connections that a family would typically provide.

Healing Children and Families

Over the years of developing Family Finding, Campbell found that most foster children have a large extended family, and if they could connect with five to eight adults who would make a “permanent relational commitment” to the child, it could change outcomes significantly.

“The training is really about how do you heal children who have had such harm done to them? And how do you heal the whole family? Because this kind of generational experience has to stop somewhere.” — Kevin Campbell
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“The training is really about how do you heal children who have had such harm done to them? And how do you heal the whole family? Because this kind of generational experience has to stop somewhere,” said Campbell.

Kellie Hans Reid, foster care coordinator with Aetna Better Health of Kansas, affirmed, “Research shows that traumatic experiences affect children’s health, like metabolic and cardiac health. We also know that we build our lifelong health in childhood. Yet, if we start early enough, there is so much we can do to alleviate the effects of childhood trauma, prevent reoccurrences, and hopefully improve long-term health and disease outcomes.”

Expanding Safety Networks

During the boot camp, Campbell empowered attendees with information on how each of them can help extend the overall safety networks of the children they work with — meaning family, friends or acquaintances that genuinely care about the child and who can serve as a relational resource. Campbell also discussed how to facilitate a community of unconditional love and healing to combat and lower the toxic stress and loneliness these children and their families are experiencing — improving mental and physical health outcomes.

Organized into 27 teams, social welfare professionals collaborated throughout the week to apply the Family Finding model to their current cases. Based on a series of criteria, they prioritized the children who were their biggest worry. By the end of the training, participants reported locating an average of 19 contacts per child, for a total of 500 contacts across all teams combined — this was an increase of 84 percent from the beginning of the week. This number broke the American record for the average number of relatives identified in a Family Finding Boot Camp, which typically averages 14 connections per child.

Key Takeaways

Attendees expressed how the boot camp training had an immediate impact on their practice with families and their individual outlook. Sample words used to describe experiences included: hopeful, moved, excited, inspired, connected, empowered, optimistic, transformative, motivated, challenged, refreshed, and appreciative, among others.

Looking to the Future

“This work has huge implications for connection, healing, improved health outcomes and combating loneliness in Kansas and beyond, potentially reducing the reliance on foster homes and congregate care,” said Josh Boynton, a member of the Medicaid Growth team focused on complex populations strategy. 

David Livingston, CEO of Aetna Better Health of Kansas, added, “This week’s Family Finding training represented preliminary efforts to empower local communities to take action and create meaningful changes in the lives of young individuals. As we look ahead to 2020 planning efforts, our goal is to continue investing both significant time and resources to improve the health and wellbeing of children and their families throughout Kansas.”

About Aetna Better Health of Kansas

Aetna Better Health of Kansas believes that members should have the opportunity to be leaders in their care. Aetna Better Health uses a model of care management that empowers members to decide what their health goals are, and then the plan works with them, their families, providers and caregivers to help them achieve their goals. The payoff to our members comes in the form of increased quality of care and quality of life. Aetna Better Health services individuals who qualify for KanCare in the State of Kansas.

For more information about CVS Health’s efforts to improve care across the nation, visit our News & Insights page and the CVS Health Impact Dashboard. To stay informed about the latest updates and innovations from CVS Health, register for content alerts and our Leaders in Care newsletter.

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