Suicide Screening, Risk Assessment, and Lethal Means Counseling During Zero Suicide Implementation

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Psychiatric services


OBJECTIVE: The authors measured implementation of Zero Suicide (ZS) clinical practices that support identification of suicide risk and risk mitigation, including screening, risk assessment, and lethal means counseling, across mental health specialty and primary care settings.

METHODS: Six health care systems in California, Colorado, Michigan, Oregon, and Washington participated. The sample included members ages ≥13 years from 2010 to 2019 (N=7,820,524 patients). The proportions of patients with suicidal ideation screening, suicide risk assessment, and lethal means counseling were estimated.

RESULTS: In 2019, patients were screened for suicidal ideation in 27.1% (range 5.0%-85.0%) of mental health visits and 2.5% (range 0.1%-35.0%) of primary care visits among a racially and ethnically diverse sample (44.9% White, 27.2% Hispanic, 13.4% Asian, and 7.7% Black). More patients screened positive for suicidal ideation in the mental health setting (10.2%) than in the primary care setting (3.8%). Of the patients screening positive for suicidal ideation in the mental health setting, 76.8% received a risk assessment, and 82.4% of those identified as being at high risk received lethal means counseling, compared with 43.2% and 82.4%, respectively, in primary care.

CONCLUSIONS: Six health systems that implemented ZS showed a high level of variation in the proportions of patients receiving suicide screening and risk assessment and lethal means counseling. Two opportunities emerged for further study to increase frequency of these practices: expanding screening beyond patients with regular health care visits and implementing risk assessment with lethal means counseling in the primary care setting directly after a positive suicidal ideation screening.

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ePub ahead of print

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