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Increasing access to suicide prevention tools and resources

Columbia Suicide Severity Rating Scale and 988 number help address suicide prevention

by Oracle Cerner | Danny Gladden, MBA, MSW, LCSW

Published on 8/26/2022

Statistics show that within a month of their suicide, 45% of people will have seen their primary care provider and only 20% will have met with a mental health professional. Overall, behavioral healthcare organizations are struggling to keep up with the 52% increase in demand for services, and more than half of the nearly 50 million American adults experiencing mental illness do not receive the treatment they need each year. As the concern of suicide grows and the demand for behavioral health services increases, providers are searching for timely, holistic treatment to meet their patients’ needs.

One way providers can take steps to address this need is by leveraging tools that can be embedded in their everyday workflow, such as the Columbia Suicide Severity Rating Scale (C-SSRS), which Oracle Cerner added into its solutions. For example, every 90 days, behavioral health organizations screen a million net-new patients using the C-SSRS in the Cerner electronic health record (EHR). It’s a free resource, developed by Columbia University, available in Cerner Millennium®, that supports universal suicide screening and can aid in suicide prevention. After patients answer a few questions, clinicians can identify who needs further help and connect them with the proper care. The data gathered from these behavioral assessments can also help in detecting future suicide risks.

To further assist clients in their suicide prevention efforts, is the new national calling code in the U.S., 988, a hotline that directs callers seeking help to the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.

“The national 988 number connecting those at risk of suicide to a simple three-digit number modeling 911 was a monumental step forward in ensuring folks have real-time, barrier-free access to mental health supports,” said Danny Gladden, MBA, LCSW, Director of Behavioral Health at Oracle Cerner.

One of the most at-risk populations for suicide is Veterans. Suicide disproportionately affects veterans and their families—at a 50% higher rate than the general population, so making sure health providers are equipped with the right tools is critical.

“We want doctors, nurses, clinicians, and therapists across all health systems to practice inclusive, holistic care with their Veterans,” said Steve Schwab, CEO of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, which supports military caregivers and family members who provide care to Service members. “We will help prevent suicide. We will help increase access to mental health professionals, treatment, and therapy if we practice inclusive care.”

Even with continued efforts to address health inequities and health disparities amid increasing financial and regulatory pressures, there’s still more to be done to bring awareness to behavioral and mental health, which are often overlooked. By combining technology and data through the EHR and behavioral health technology tools and resources, health partners can work together to bring awareness, reduce suicides, and provide the care Veterans, Service members, and provide care at the right time for patients.

Over 350 organizations and more than 140 hospital-based and free-standing behavioral health clients use Cerner Behavioral Health to provide services like assessments, screenings, and evaluation tools to assess patients. Learn more about this solution.