Creating Suicide Safer Care in Behavioral Health Settings

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ALBANY, N.Y. (April 5, 2021) – Clinical Associate Professor Brett Harris and Associate Professor Melissa Tracy collaborated with colleagues at the New York State Office of Mental Health to evaluate the quality of suicide care in substance use disorder (SUD) treatment. Compared to mental health providers, SUD providers reported lower practice of suicide care, lower self-efficacy, and lower effectiveness providing suicide care.  

The researchers distributed an electronic survey to clinicians in mental health and SUD treatment in nine health systems across New York State. The survey was used to assess attitudes, perceptions, practice, and training needs among mental health and SUD treatment providers.    

The majority of SUD treatment providers (71%) reported working with a patient who attempted suicide. Yet 28% of SUD providers reported low levels of action to address suicide risk, as compared to 9% of mental health providers. In fact, only half of SUD providers reported routinely screening new patients for suicidal thoughts or behaviors.    

The researchers indicated that, “suicide prevention in SUD treatment may be a critical step in saving lives and promoting recovery among those at risk for opioid overdose.” The results of this study can be used to inform targeted training and technical assistance to improve the quality and quantity of suicide care in SUD treatment.