Many emergency department (ED) patients are at risk of suicide, and the ED is a key setting for suicide prevention. Although ED interventions are associated with reduced suicide attempts and societal costs, most EDs do not have follow-up programs. This pilot investigated the feasibility and implementation process of a statewide program.
This multicenter prospective pilot program included all patients evaluated for suicidal behavior in, and discharged home from, participating EDs across Colorado. Suicidal ED patients were offered crisis hotline follow-up calls that focused on continued support and connection to outpatient care. Data collection at EDs focused on implementation issues and referral and participation rates; the crisis line collected patient information and call statistics.
From July 1, 2015, to October 31, 2017, the program expanded to 15 EDs covering almost a quarter of ED visits in a large, high-burden state. Some sites achieved 100% referral rates, suggesting that referral became routine, and the mean referral rate was 76%. High referral rates were associated with an ED champion, record system enhancements, repeated training, and regular communication. Of 5,620 visits with referral, 2,737 resulted in participation (48.7%). Although the program was free for patients, half declined it. The call center made 15,414 calls, ultimately reaching all but 9.8% of participants. Few participants reported repeat ED visits or suicide attempts.
This project demonstrated the feasibility of using a state crisis hotline to provide postdischarge follow-up for suicidal ED patients. Continued investigation into sustainable implementation and outcomes of such programs is warranted.