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Network Matters
News and Information for the
Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Network

July 2018

Suicide Prevention Resources


Suicide is a topic of increasing national relevance, with recent high-profile celebrity cases including Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade, among others. According to research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide rates in the United States increased 25.4 percent from 1999 to 2016.

Primary care offices are a likely setting for identifying individuals at risk of suicide. One study found that 45% of suicide victims visited their primary care physician (PCP) no more than one month prior to taking their lives.

The Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC) believes PCPs are in the position to implement some of the most effective strategies for suicide prevention, such as:

  • Training staff to identify and respond to warning signs of suicide
  • Providing brief intervention
  • Recognizing and effectively treating depression
  • Counseling patients on limiting access to lethal means

In an attempt to make suicide prevention practices standard in the primary care environment, the SPRC have identified several resources, including a web-based toolkit to assist with suicide risk assessment and safety planning, as well as trainings, webinars, fact sheets, publications, and research information. 

PCPs play an important role in coordinating care with behavioral health practitioners. Collaboration between PCPs and behavioral health care practitioners is critical to improving patient care by allowing better management of treatment and follow-up for patients with co-existing medical and behavioral disorders.

Harvard Pilgrim also encourages providers to direct members in crisis to the resources available through the behavioral health emergency services/crisis services programs affiliated with Optum throughout Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine. The community-based locations associated with these programs operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week and provide behavioral health crisis assessment, support, and intervention services for children, adolescents, adults, and the geriatric population. You can find informational flyers about the Massachusetts Emergency Services Programs, Maine Behavioral Health Crisis Services Programs, and New Hampshire Behavioral Health Emergency Services, including contact information for community-based locations listed by county, on the Resources & Links page in the Provider section of Harvard Pilgrim’s website.

How Optum/UBH can help your patients — For complex clinical situations, Optum/UBH is available to provide consultative assistance. Practitioners can call the Optum/UBH Physicians Consultation Service at 800-292-2922. To refer a patient for behavioral health services and to facilitate the coordination of care, call Optum at 888-777-4742.

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Robert Farias,
Senior Vice President, Corporate Network Strategy

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