UT Health Austin Focuses on Suicide Care

UT Health Austin receives a $100,000 grant from the Cardinal Health Foundation to join a national quality improvement collaborative focused on improving suicide care.

Reviewed by Donna Shanor, LCSW, LCDC
Written by Ashley Lawrence

A closeup of two middle aged women holding hands in a supportive way

UT Health Austin received a $100,000 grant from the Cardinal Health Foundation to join the foundation’s Zero Suicide Collaborative, a national quality improvement collaborative focused on improving suicide care. In addition to the grant, UT Health Austin clinicians and clinical staff will receive comprehensive training and expert consultation from the Zero Suicide Institute, whose evidence-based framework is centered on the realization that people experiencing suicidal thoughts often fall through the cracks in a fast-paced and sometimes fragmented healthcare system. UT Health Austin is one of 18 healthcare organizations that have dedicated efforts specifically to carry out the principles of the Zero Suicide Collaborative.

Over the last 45 years, suicide rates have increased by 60% worldwide. Today, nearly 800,000 people lose their lives to suicide each year. In the United States, 64% of Americans who attempt suicide visit a healthcare professional in the month before their attempt.

“Suicide is a growing public health concern in this country,” explains Jessie Cannon, Vice President of Community Relations at Cardinal Health. “According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 48,000 people died by suicide in 2018 – making it the 10th leading cause of death in the United States.”

The Zero Suicide initiative is a system-wide approach devoted to improving patient outcomes by closing the gaps in the healthcare system. This initiative has been successful in other organizations with healthcare centers seeing a 75% decrease in suicide-related deaths after four years and behavioral health centers reporting a 32% decrease in deaths among patients after two years.

“We know that preventing suicide among vulnerable people who are already in the healthcare system requires a system-wide approach to close care gaps and improve outcomes,” says Cannon. “We’re pleased to support UT Health Austin as they go through this transformative journey.”

This initiative has been adopted by UT Health Austin’s Clinical Quality Committee and is being led by the Zero Suicide Implementation Team members Donna Shanor, LCSW-S, LCDC, UT Health Austin’s Director of Clinical Social Work and Integrated Behavioral Health, and Kathy Carberry, RN, MPH, the Outcomes Program Officer for the Value Institute for Health and Care at UT Austin, who will help coordinate training to ensure UT Health Austin’s clinicians and clinical staff have the tools necessary to embed suicide prevention practices into their care model.

“At UT Health Austin, we are dedicated to informing, training, and guiding not only healthcare providers and clinical staff but also our non-clinical staff, to lead care transformation that creates impact beyond the walls of our clinical practice,” says Shanor. “This grant will allow us to provide our clinical faculty and staff with role-specific evidence-based training to ensure everyone at UT Health Austin recognizes the power they have to make a difference in the lives of others. We will also be provided the opportunity to participate in consultations with national experts and receive feedback from people with lived experience to help support our efforts to build mechanisms to measure and continuously improve.”

Healthcare providers and staff are in a unique position in which they can ask sensitive questions to assess how a patient is truly feeling. Providing our staff with the appropriate training to screen, treat, and support at-risk patients can help save lives. “We are committed to both patient safety and the safety and support of our clinical staff – who do the important work of treating and supporting patients that are experiencing suicidal thoughts,” shares Shanor. “This grant will support our efforts to develop a pathway to better assess and modify suicide risk.”

At UT Health Austin we acknowledge that gaps exist in suicide care and we are committed to continuously improving suicide care for our patients, families, and our community.

To make an appointment with UT Health Austin, please call 1-833-UT-CARES (1-833-882-2737) or visit here.

You Can Help Improve Suicide Care, Services, and Support in Austin

UT Health Austin believes the best way to improve health care is by listening to individuals who better understand what matters most to them. We want to learn about your lived experience with suicide so that we can improve care, services, and support for others impacted by suicide or suicidal thoughts. We invite you to join one of our experience groups forming this summer. For more information download our experience group information flyer in English or Spanish.

About UT Health Austin

UT Health Austin is the clinical practice of the Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin. We collaborate with our colleagues at the Dell Medical School and The University of Texas at Austin to utilize the latest research, diagnostic, and treatment techniques, allowing us to provide patients with an unparalleled quality of care. Our experienced healthcare professionals deliver personalized, whole-person care of uncompromising quality and treat each patient as an individual with unique circumstances, priorities, and beliefs. Working directly with you, your care team creates an individualized care plan to help you reach the goals that matter most to you — in the care room and beyond. For more information, call us at 1-833-UT-CARES or request an appointment here.