Suicide safer care in behavioral health settings: A comparative analysis of perceptions, training completion, and practice between mental health and substance use disorder treatment providers
Harris, B.R., Tracy, M., Comber, K.G., Pechenik, S., & Carruthers, J.W.
Despite prevention and treatment efforts, opioid overdose deaths continue to rise in the United States and totaled 46,802 in 2018. This public health crisis is closely linked with suicide, with those who misuse opioids at six times the risk of death by suicide. Suicide prevention in substance use disorder (SUD) treatment may be a critical step in saving lives and promoting recovery among those at risk for opioid overdose.
We distributed an electronic survey to clinicians in mental health and SUD treatment in nine health systems across New York State from November 2018 to January 2019. The goal of the survey was to assess attitudes, perceptions, practice, and training needs among SUD treatment providers and how they differ from those of mental health providers.
A total of 633 clinicians responded to the survey (62.4% response rate). Seventy-one percent of SUD providers reported working with a client who attempted suicide. Even so, less than half of SUD providers reported routinely screening new (48.9%) or existing patients (25.6%) for suicidal thoughts/behaviors; overall, 28.4% of SUD providers reported low levels of action to address suicide risk, compared to 9.0% of mental health providers (p < 0.001). Perceived self-efficacy and effectiveness at reducing a patient’s risk of suicide and training completion were strongly associated with routine delivery of suicide safer care in adjusted logistic regression models.
The results of this study identify key areas for targeted training and technical assistance to increase the provision of quality suicide safer care in SUD treatment.