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Pre-implementation adaptation of suicide safety planning intervention using peer support in rural areas.

Woodward EN, Lunsford A, Brown R, Downing D, Ball I, Gan-Kemp JM, Smith A, Atkinson O, Graham T. Pre-implementation adaptation of suicide safety planning intervention using peer support in rural areas. Frontiers in Health Services. 2023 Dec 22; 3(1):1225171.

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INTRODUCTION: Currently, seventeen veterans die by suicide daily in the United States (U.S.). There are disparities in suicide behavior and access to preventative treatment. One disparity is the suicide rate in rural areas, including the state of Arkansas-suicide deaths among rural veterans increased 48% in the last 2 decades, double that of urban veterans. One major challenge for veterans in rural areas is the lack of healthcare providers to provide Safety Planning Intervention, which is an effective intervention to reduce suicide attempts in the general adult population and among veterans. One solution is more broadly implementing Safety Planning Intervention, by using peers to deliver the intervention in rural communities. Before implementation, the intervention needs to be adapted for peer-to-peer delivery, and barriers and facilitators identified. METHODS: Since January 2021, using community-based participatory research, we collaboratively developed and executed a 1 year study to adapt Safety Planning Intervention for peer-to-peer delivery in rural communities and identified implementation barriers and facilitators prior to spread. From July 2022 to February 2023, we conducted group interviews with 12 participants: rural veterans with prior suicidal thoughts or attempts in one U.S. state, their support persons, and healthcare professionals with expertise in veteran suicide prevention, Safety Planning Intervention, and/or peer delivery. We collected qualitative data through interviews during nine, 2 h meetings, and quantitative data from one anonymous survey and real-time anonymous voting-all on the topic of core and adaptable components of Safety Planning Intervention and implementation barriers and facilitators for peer delivery in rural communities. Questions about adaptation were designed according to processes in the ENGAGED for CHANGE community-engaged intervention framework and questions about facilitators and barriers were designed according to the Health Equity Implementation Framework. Participants categorized which Safety Planning Intervention components were core or adaptable, and how freely they could be adapted, using the metaphor of a traffic light in red (do not change), yellow (change with caution), and green (change freely) categories. RESULTS: Participants made few actual adaptations (categorized according to the FRAME modification system), but strongly recommended robust training for peers. Participants identified 27 implementation facilitators and 47 barriers, organized using the Health Equity Implementation Framework. Two example facilitators were (1) peer-to-peer safety planning intervention was highly acceptable to rural veterans; and (2) some state counties already had veteran crisis programs that could embed this intervention for spread. Two example barriers were (1) some community organizations that might spread the intervention have been motivated initially, wanting to help right away, yet not able to sustain interventions; and (2) uncertainty about how to reach veterans at moderate suicide risk, as many crisis programs identified them when suicide risk was higher. DISCUSSION: Our results provide one of the more comprehensive pre-implementation assessments to date for Safety Planning Intervention in any setting, especially for peer delivery (also referred to as task shifting) outside healthcare or clinical settings. One important next step will be mapping these barriers and facilitators to implementation strategies for peer-to-peer delivery. One finding surprised our research team-despite worse societal context in rural communities leading to disproportionate suicide deaths-participants identified several positive facilitators specifically about rural communities that can be leveraged during implementation.

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