VA launches ‘new, unique’ tool to help prevent veteran suicides

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A Defense Department illustration depicts the hazards of suicidal thoughts, as it aims to boost awareness of mental health prevention programs available to servicemembers. (COREY HOOK/U.S. AIR FORCE)
From Stripes.com
A Defense Department illustration depicts the hazards of suicidal thoughts, as it aims to boost awareness of mental health prevention programs available to servicemembers. (COREY HOOK/U.S. AIR FORCE)

VA launches ‘new, unique’ tool to help prevent veteran suicides

by: Nikki Wentling | .
Stars and Stripes | .
published: April 21, 2017
WASHINGTON — The Department of Veterans Affairs recently unveiled a new program that reviews veterans’ health records to identify which ones might attempt suicide.
 
The VA launched the new analytics program nationwide this month. It uses a computer algorithm to comb through veterans’ electronic health records and identifies factors, such as chronic illness, socioeconomic stressors, hospitalizations, relationship issues, life changes and certain medical and mental health conditions, that indicate who could be at risk of attempting suicide. The goal, said Aaron Eagan, the program manager, is for the VA to know earlier when to step in and try to prevent a potential crisis.
 
“In suicide prevention, it is a new, unique approach,” Eagan said. “If we can engage people well and build trust and make sure their needs are being met, we eliminate them ever getting to a point where they would have a crisis. That’s the idea of the program.”
 
The program was piloted in October at VA medical centers in Erie and Butler, Pa., before a decision was made to expand it across the country. It’s now available at all VA hospitals.
 
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