Pilot of a Veteran Suicide Prevention Learning Collaborative

December 15, 2023

News Type:  Weekly Spark, Weekly Spark Research

This article evaluates the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) VA/COmmunity Suicide Prevention LeArning CollaboraTive (CO-ACT) pilot project.

VA created CO-ACT to support external organizations in providing suicide prevention care to veterans. Through community mapping, internet searches, and direct outreach, this online project recruited organizations in the Denver and Colorado Springs, Colorado area that serve, interact with, or employ veterans.

CO-ACT aimed to (1) aid organizations in developing veteran suicide prevention programs supported by best practices; (2) create partnerships between CO-ACT members and other agencies to enhance support for the organizations and the veterans they serve; and (3) build connections between VA and community organizations to improve care coordination. 

The CO-ACT pilot project operated for 16 months. It held six quarterly meetings with all participants in addition to individual monthly calls with each organization. During this time, CO-ACT successfully facilitated the development of 92 veteran suicide prevention program components among member organizations. Components included a veteran suicide prevention quality improvement program, staff training, and universal interventions (i.e., prevention efforts applied to the whole population served by an organization).

The project collected quantitative and qualitative data throughout implementation. The results revealed that the prevention efforts of CO-ACT member organizations reached over 24,682 individuals and 5,128 veterans. CO-ACT screened 5,142 individuals for suicide risk, 1,729 of whom screened positive. The pilot project conducted a total of 3,574 trainings and distributed 6,365 suicide prevention or mental health resources. Qualitative data collected from CO-ACT members indicated that the training, educational materials, interagency partnerships, and technical assistance it provided were valuable. 

The project’s challenges included the limited resources of some participant organizations and difficulties imposed by COVID-19 restrictions. Limited resources may have also impeded data collection as quantitative data was not consistently submitted by member organizations.

The results of the evaluation demonstrated that CO-ACT’s public health approach enabled it to interact with a variety of organizations, both clinical and non-clinical. At the conclusion of the pilot, several organizations expressed an interest in continuing to receive support through ad hoc facilitation calls, so the pilot is transitioning to a community of practice model. Evaluation is ongoing to determine the sustainability of this model and monitor the transition from a learning collaborative to a community of practice.

DeBeer, B., Mignogna, J., Borah, E., Bryan, C., Monteith, L. L., Russell, P., Williams, M., Bongiovanni, K., Villarreal, E., Hoffmire, C., Petersen, A., Heise, J., Mohatt, N., Baack, S., Weinberg, K., Polk, M., Alverio, T., Keene, R., Mealer, M., & Benzer, J. (2023). A pilot of veteran suicide prevention learning collaborative among community organizations: Initial results and outcomes. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, 53(4), 628-641. https://doi.org/10.1111/sltb.12969