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WUSF News Staff
Off The Base
Sun June 24, 2012
Bay Pines VA Falls Short on Follow-Up for Vets at Suicide Risk
A recent report from the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General finds that Bay Pines VA Health System in Bay Pines, Florida failed to provide adequate follow-up care for veterans considered at high risk for suicide.
There's more emphasis being placed on suicide prevention and follow-up care because of the increased rate of suicide among veterans and active duty service members.
Looking at records for 30 veterans who received acute mental health (MH) inpatient care, the auditors found that three of 10 veterans who were considered at high risk for suicide were not contacted within the prescribed time or with the required frequency:
Follow-Up for High Risk for Suicide Patients. Through its MH performance measures, VHA requires that patients discharged from inpatient MH who are on the high risk for suicide list receive 2 outpatient follow-up evaluations within 14 days of discharge and 2 outpatient follow-up evaluations within 15–30 days from discharge. Three of the 10 patients discharged who were on the high risk for suicide list did not receive MH follow-up at the required intervals.
Since 2009, there have been 31 confirmed suicides of patients who had been treated by Bay Pines, according to spokesman Jason Dangel.
Hospital officials say that, overall, mental health care at Bay Pines is of high quality. They point out that the review encompassed a small percentage of the roughly 1,300 acute inpatient psychiatry patients the hospital treats every year.
All patients whose records were reviewed by inspectors did get mental health follow-up, though not all within the prescribed time, said Dominique A. Thuriere, chief of mental health and behavior sciences at Bay Pines. Overall, the hospital treats about 20,000 mental health patients annually, Thuriere said.
The Inspector General's Office said that the 30 cases examined are statistically representative of the overall caseload.