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Suicide Mortality Among Veterans Health Administration Care Recipients With Suicide Risk Record Flags.

Hein TC, Peltzman T, Hallows J, Theriot N, McCarthy JF. Suicide Mortality Among Veterans Health Administration Care Recipients With Suicide Risk Record Flags. Psychiatric services (Washington, D.C.). 2022 Mar 1; 73(3):259-264.

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OBJECTIVE: In 2008, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) established a suicide high-risk flag (HRF) for patient records. To inform ongoing suicide prevention activities as part of operations and quality improvement work in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the authors evaluated suicide risk following HRF activations and inactivations. METHODS: For annual cohorts of VHA users, HRF receipt and demographic and clinical care contexts in the 30 days before HRF activations were examined for 2014-2016 (N = 7,450,831). Veterans were included if they had VHA inpatient or outpatient encounters during the index or previous year. Suicide rates in the 12 months after HRF activations and inactivations were assessed. Using multivariable Cox proportional hazards regression, the authors compared suicide risk following HRF activation and inactivation with veterans without HRFs, adjusted for age, gender, and race-ethnicity. RESULTS: HRF activation (N = 47,015) was commonly preceded within 30 days by a documented suicide attempt (39.5%) or inpatient mental health admission (40.1%). Suicide risk was elevated in the 12 months after flag activation (crude suicide rate = 682 per 100,000 person-years, adjusted hazard ratio [HR] = 21.00, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 18.55-23.72) compared with risk among VHA users without HRF activity. Risk after HRF inactivation (N = 41,251) was also elevated (crude suicide rate = 408 per 100,000 person-years, adjusted HR = 12.43, 95% CI = 10.57-14.63) compared with risk among VHA users without HRF activity. CONCLUSIONS: Suicide risk after HRF activation was substantially elevated and also high after HRF inactivation. Findings suggest the importance of comprehensive suicide risk mitigation and support recent VHA process enhancements to formalize inactivation criteria and support veterans after HRF inactivation.

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