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Partnered implementation of the veteran sponsorship initiative: protocol for a randomized hybrid type 2 effectiveness-implementation trial.

Geraci JC, Finley EP, Edwards ER, Frankfurt S, Kurz AS, Kamdar N, Vanneman ME, Lopoo LM, Patnaik H, Yoon J, Armstrong N, Greene AL, Cantor G, Wrobleski J, Young E, Goldsmith M, Seim RW, Goodman M. Partnered implementation of the veteran sponsorship initiative: protocol for a randomized hybrid type 2 effectiveness-implementation trial. Implementation science : IS. 2022 Jul 8; 17(1):43.

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BACKGROUND: The USA is undergoing a suicide epidemic for its youngest Veterans (18-to-34-years-old) as their suicide rate has almost doubled since 2001. Veterans are at the highest risk during their first-year post-discharge, thus creating a "deadly gap." In response, the nation has developed strategies that emphasize a preventive, universal, and public health approach and embrace the value of community interventions. The three-step theory of suicide suggests that community interventions that reduce reintegration difficulties and promote connectedness for Veterans as they transition to civilian life have the greatest likelihood of reducing suicide. Recent research shows that the effectiveness of community interventions can be enhanced when augmented by volunteer and certified sponsors (1-on-1) who actively engage with Veterans, as part of the Veteran Sponsorship Initiative (VSI). METHOD/DESIGN: The purpose of this randomized hybrid type 2 effectiveness-implementation trial is to evaluate the implementation of the VSI in six cities in Texas in collaboration with the US Departments of Defense, Labor and Veterans Affairs, Texas government, and local stakeholders. Texas is an optimal location for this large-scale implementation as it has the second largest population of these young Veterans and is home to the largest US military installation, Fort Hood. The first aim is to determine the effectiveness of the VSI, as evidenced by measures of reintegration difficulties, health/psychological distress, VA healthcare utilization, connectedness, and suicidal risk. The second aim is to determine the feasibility and potential utility of a stakeholder-engaged plan for implementing the VSI in Texas with the intent of future expansion in more states. The evaluators will use a stepped wedge design with a sequential roll-out to participating cities over time. Participants (n = 630) will be enrolled on military installations six months prior to discharge. Implementation efforts will draw upon a bundled implementation strategy that includes strategies such as ongoing training, implementation facilitation, and audit and feedback. Formative and summative evaluations will be guided by the Reach, Effectiveness, Adoption, Implementation, and Maintenance (RE-AIM) framework and will include interviews with participants and periodic reflections with key stakeholders to longitudinally identify barriers and facilitators to implementation. DISCUSSION: This evaluation will have important implications for the national implementation of community interventions that address the epidemic of Veteran suicide. Aligned with the Evidence Act, it is the first large-scale implementation of an evidence-based practice that conducts a thorough assessment of TSMVs during the "deadly gap." TRIAL REGISTRATION: ID number: NCT05224440 . Registered on 04 February 2022.

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