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Columbia Lighthouse Project And NY State Division Of Veterans' Services Partner To Combat Veterans Suicide

·3 min read

State Veterans' Services To Adopt and Disseminate Columbia Protocol, Suicide Risk Scale

NEW YORK, Nov. 11, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Military veterans take their own lives at a rate that is 1.5 times higher than Americans who never served in the military. And among female veterans, it is more than double than that of female non-veterans.

In an effort to greatly mitigate this tragedy, the New York State Division of Veterans' Services (NYS DVS) and the Columbia Lighthouse Project, a nationally-recognized suicide prevention initiative under the auspices of Columbia University and its Research Foundation for Mental Hygiene, announced today a historic, collaborative partnership to disseminate, implement and fully adopt the Columbia Suicide Severity Risk Scale among all State veterans offices and veterans services organizations accredited by NYS DVS.

The C-SSRS, or Columbia Protocol, is a simple-to-use, proven effective tool developed by Dr. Kelly Posner Gerstenhaber and her colleagues at Columbia Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania and University of Pittsburgh that employs a series of questions to identify persons at risk of suicide and then helps connect them to the care they may need. The preventative power of the Columbia Protocol is that anyone, from doctors, teachers, and parents, to coworkers, coaches, friends, relatives and others can use it. For example, in the Marines suicide rates dropped 22% after a total-force rollout that put the tool in everyone's hands, from clergy to legal assistants and financial aid counselors.

"It is an honor to partner with the Columbia Lighthouse Project to implement the use of the Columbia-Suicide Severity Rating Scale throughout all of our offices when meeting with Veterans, Servicemembers, and their families," said New York State Division of Veterans' Services Executive Deputy Director Joel Evans. "This screening tool empowers our staff and lets those we work with know they are not alone. It is one of many steps New York State is taking to reduce further the number of suicides within the Veteran and military communities."

The new partnership calls also for a coordinated sustainable learning and assessment program among all state, county and municipal Veterans agencies and offices, as well as non-profit Veterans services organizations to track and report data to ensure the effectiveness of the Columbia Protocol. Among the VSO organizations that have signed onto the partnership are the American Legion Department of New York, VetsFirst, and United Spinal Association.

"The battles our veterans face don't end when they come home from the battlefield," said Dr. Posner Gerstenhaber, who founded and co-directs the Columbia Lighthouse Project and who is the recent recipient of the U.S. Department of Defense Medal, the highest honor given by the department to a civilian for her work in suicide prevention in the military. "Far too often, veterans continue to struggle in readjusting to civilian life and reacclimating to their family and professional responsibilities. They carry the permanent invisible scars of Post Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injury, and they need our help, and we have an obligation to provide this help. That is the goal of the Columbia Protocol."

Added Dr. Keita Franklin, who spearheaded suicide prevention efforts at the Department of Defense and Veterans Administration before becoming co-director of the CLP earlier this year, "During my time at the DoD and VA, I saw first-hand the struggles of Veterans with mental health, depression, substance abuse, homelessness, and other issues, all of which are contributing factors to the unacceptably high rate of suicide among Veterans. But I also saw the effectiveness of the Columbia Protocol in identifying those at-risk and mitigating the problem. So I'm pleased that we are able to partner with New York State in this all-out effort to prevent Veteran suicide."

For more information, visit the Columbia Lighthouse Project, https://cssrs.columbia.edu/ or call 646-286-7439.

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View original content:http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/columbia-lighthouse-project-and-ny-state-division-of-veterans-services-partner-to-combat-veterans-suicide-301171256.html

SOURCE Research Foundation and Columbia Lighthouse Project