Last updated on February 2019

Randomized Trial of Stepped Care for Suicide Prevention in Teens and Young Adults


Brief description of study

This randomized controlled trial will evaluate two approaches to achieving the aspirational goal of Zero Suicide within a health system: 1) Zero Suicide Best Practices initiated through a zero suicide quality improvement initiative within a health system; and 2) Zero Suicide Best Practices plus an innovative stepped care for suicide prevention intervention for adolescents and young adults that matches treatment intensity with risk levels for suicide/self-harm. ..

Detailed Study Description

We propose a rigorous randomized trial to evaluate an innovative stepped care for suicide prevention intervention for adolescents and young adults, compared to a zero suicide program initiated by a health system. An effective zero suicide strategy for this age group is critically needed because this is a developmental period when: 1) suicide is the second leading cause of death, accounting for more deaths than any medical illness; 2) suicidal tendencies and behaviors often first occur in this age span; 3) rates of suicide and suicide attempts increase dramatically; and 4) effective intervention can reduce risk, suffering, and costs over lifetimes.

The project combines a partnership with a health system that has strong infrastructure and commitment to quality improvement for zero suicide with a research team that has successfully implemented collaborative stepped care interventions in health systems and has expertise in clinical, health services, economics, and policy research and dissemination. We will identify and enroll 300 youths ages 12-24 with elevated suicide and suicide attempt risk using a multi-stage screening process. Eligible youths will be randomized to: 1) zero suicide best practices, which emphasizes health system quality improvement (ZSQI); or 2) ZSQI plus stepped care for suicide prevention, which integrates evidence-based suicide prevention with primary care and emergency services. Prior research demonstrates the value of similar integrated medical-behavioral health interventions for improving patient outcomes, rates of care, and continuity of care- a critical issue for zero suicide efforts, as many youths discontinue care prematurely despite continuing risk. The ZSQI plus stepped care for suicide prevention approach uses: 1) risk assessments to triage youths to appropriate care levels; 2) care managers to deliver cognitive behavior therapy and dialectical behavior therapy skills training and support primary care and emergency clinicians with patient evaluation and treatment; 3) internet-delivered cognitive-behavior therapy and dialectical behavior therapy treatment components plus access to coaching support for lower risk youths, with stepped up in-person group and/or individual treatment added for higher risk youths; and 4) regular monitoring of patient outcomes, with feedback to clinicians to facilitate decision-making and use of the stepped care algorithms. The intervention period is 12 months: 6 months of acute treatment; and 6 months of continuation treatment. Results will provide critical information for health systems and science regarding the potential to achieve zero suicide goals by integrating state of the art science with practice quality improvement.

Clinical Study Identifier: NCT03092271

Contact Investigators or Research Sites near you

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Joan R Asarnow, PhD

University of California Los Angeles (UCLA)
Los Angeles, CA United States
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Gregory N Clarke, PhD

Kaiser Permanente Northwest
Portland, OR United States
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Recruitment Status: Open


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