Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness obtains $1.5 million grant on suicide prevention
The Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness at Penn State was recently awarded a $1.5 million grant from the Military Suicide Research Consortium (MSRC) to enhance suicide prevention efforts in the U.S. Air Force. The two-year grant will enable the Clearinghouse to bolster the pilot implementation of the Zero Suicide Systems Approach (ZSSA) at five Air Force bases.
ZSSA is an evidence-informed, framework designed to assist healthcare organizations implement, improve, and sustain system-wide suicide prevention efforts. Components of ZSSA include: universal screening for suicide risk, full suicide risk assessments for those who screen positive, providing a clear pathway to the most appropriate and least restrictive care, safety planning, and counseling on how to prevent access to lethal means such as firearms and medications. Within civilian settings, ZSSA has had promising results in reducing suicides in several large healthcare systems.
“The MSRC funding will allow us to increase on-site ZSSA implementation support, coaching, and technical assistance, as well as develop a robust data collection system to evaluate both program implementation and patient outcomes,” stated Keith Aronson, associate director of the Clearinghouse and the principal investigator. “ZSSA requires significant innovations across the Air Force healthcare system and these innovations necessitate suicide prevention capacity building that results from close collaboration, on the ground support, training, and from having immediate actionable data to steer implementation efforts.”
Military suicides remain a vexing problem despite a number of prevention efforts funded by the Department of Defense and the Service Branches. However, none of the approaches to date have taken a healthcare systems approach. The implementation of ZSSA in the Air Force is a unique approach that empowers each and every person in the healthcare system to “own” suicide prevention because they receive training, easy to follow protocols for patient care, and data to guide and direct their efforts toward continuous quality improvement in suicide prevention.
“There are approximately 100 suicides per year in the Air Force, and approximately 40 percent of these individuals are seen in an Air Force healthcare clinic within two weeks of his or her suicide,” said Daniel Perkins, founder and principal scientist at the Clearinghouse and co-principal investigator. “Less than half of those who die by suicide in the Air Force are ever seen in a Mental Health Clinic and so ZSSA requires that every patient is screened for suicide risk at every appointment in every clinic.” In so doing, the healthcare system will identify more people at risk for suicide and place them on an appropriate pathway to care.
As part of the Department of Defense’s comprehensive suicide prevention strategy, the MSRC researches the causes and prevention of suicide and assists in the development of more effective prevention interventions, risk assessment methods and treatments to decrease suicide. The findings of MSRC funded research provide the scientific basis for suicide prevention policy recommendations and clinical practice guidelines.
The Clearinghouse is an applied research center committed to advancing the health and well-being of service members and their families. The Clearinghouse takes a solution-oriented approach that includes writing research reports, conducting applied research studies, building workforce expertise through training and resource provision, implementing and evaluating evidence-informed programs and practices, and delivering objective data and policy-relevant findings so that decisions are based on the best science and evidence available. The Clearinghouse is located within the Social Science Research Institute (SSRI) at The Pennsylvania State University.