Evaluation of the REACH-VET Program

July 01, 2022
News Type:  Weekly Spark, Weekly Spark Research

An evaluation found the Recovery Engagement and Coordination for Health-Veterans Enhanced Treatment (REACH VET) program was associated with increased treatment engagement and quality of care and reduced suicide attempts among participants. Run by the Veterans Health Administration, the REACH VET program is designed to facilitate care enhancements for individuals identified by a validated algorithm as being in the top 0.1% for suicide risk.

The study sought to examine whether participation in REACH VET resulted in greater treatment engagement (i.e., more scheduled and completed appointments) and quality of care (e.g., suicide safety plan documentation), as well as reduced acute care needs (fewer inpatient mental health admissions and emergency department visits) and suicide-related behaviors (suicide attempts and deaths).

Researchers compared outcomes of individuals entering REACH VET between March 2017 and December 2018 to a group of individuals identified as high risk prior to the program’s start who would have met the eligibility criteria. They also included a second comparison group of people who would not have been eligible for the program to compare cause-specific mortality using death certificate data.

Participant data came from the Veterans Health Administration Corporate Data Warehouse on 173,313 individuals (93% men, 7% women) with a mean age of 51. 

Results indicated that participation in REACH VET was associated with more completed outpatient appointments, fewer missed appointments, having new suicide safety plans, reduced mental health admissions and emergency department visits, and fewer documented suicide attempts within six months. However, there was no difference between the groups in the proportion of deaths resulting from suicide or other causes within six months.

REACH VET is the first clinical implementation of a validated algorithm to support suicide risk identification in the U.S., carried out in the nation’s largest integrated health system. The findings from this study highlight the value of investment in suicide surveillance, data analytics, and clinical operations to improve health outcomes.

McCarthy, J. F., Cooper, S. A., Dent, K. R., Eagan, A. E., Matarazzo, B. B., Hannemann, C. M., Reger, M. A., Landes, S. J., Trafton, J. A., Schoenbaum, M., & Katz, I. R. (2021). Evaluation of the Recovery Engagement and Coordination for Health-Veterans Enhanced Treatment suicide risk modeling clinical program in the Veterans Health Administration. JAMA Network Open, 4(10), e2129900. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.29900