The Ralph H. Johnson VA Health Care System was announced as one of the winners of the 2021 Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Community Partnership Challenge by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The award recognizes VA facility partnerships with local community organizations that help Veterans and their families lead happier, healthier lives.
Since 2019, the Ralph H. Johnson VAHCS suicide prevention team has partnered with local community hospitals and developed a system to collaborate to improve clinical care for Veterans transitioning from community inpatient mental health treatment to outpatient VA mental health care. Research has demonstrated that risk for suicidal behaviors and completed suicide is substantially increased following the days and weeks following hospital discharge. By developing strong partnerships with community hospitals, Ralph H. Johnson VAHCS improves care coordination to assist Veterans and aims to decrease risk for suicide during this critical time period. The training teaches community providers how to create a robust and evidence-based prevention safety plan and connect Veterans back to VA mental health care.
“One of the roles we discuss frequently at our VA is being integrated within the community to provide the absolute best care for our Veterans,” said Ralph H. Johnson VAHCS Director and CEO Scott Isaacks. “Our commitment is to our Veterans, no matter where they receive care. Integrating them back into our programs for follow-up care enhances continuity of care, with a long-term outcome of a more comprehensive care plan to keep our Veterans safe.”
Over the last year, the partnership with the six community hospitals and Charleston VA’s suicide prevention team has resulted in appropriate follow-up care for 103 Veterans.
“We believe that suicide is preventable and these extra steps we are taking to build strong partnerships with our community hospitals is helping us save lives,” said Isaacks.
More than 44 facilities applied to the 2021 VHA Community Partnership Challenge. This year’s theme was “adaptability in a changing world.” VA medical facilities were encouraged to submit entries that demonstrate how VHA and organizations in the community collaborate during times of uncertainty to meet Veterans’ needs through community partnerships that are built on a foundation of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Three VA medical centers were selected as 2021 winners.
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