VA introduces new suicide prevention initiative

Suicide remains the most serious, and ongoing, issue for our nation's veterans. The latest numbers show close to an average of 17 suicides per day.

The VA, like so many other veterans organizations, has been trying to find a way to lower that number. One of the ways they're doing that is with an initiative called mission daybreak.

Amanda Lienau, Ph.D., director of data and analytics innovation at the office of healthcare innovation and learning, joined FOX 7 Austin's Mike Warren to discuss.

MIKE WARREN: What is mission daybreak?

AMANDA LIENAU: It's a suicide prevention grand challenge the VA launched in May 2020, and we announced the winner in February 2023.

MIKE WARREN: What's the goal here?

AMANDA LIENAU: The goal is to cast a wide net to solve the problem of suicide as a public health crisis. Our goal is to bring in a group of solvers, vets, researchers, technologists, advocates, innovators all those fresh ideas to serve those who served and combine those solutions to have an impact on the current suicide crisis.

MIKE WARREN: Is it having an effect?

AMANDA LIENAU: Where we are, in the challenge, is we've selected really promising ideas, so we announced in February 2023 the top 10 winners of the challenge. We're now working with the program and other leaders to determine which solutions we want to test and how we do that. Some solutions are AI and how to ID people at risk, some are how to reduce access to lethal means and some are community engagement solutions. So we've aided excellent solutions, and we want to begin pilots to see how those solutions could impact the problem.

MIKE WARREN: Casting a wide net for solutions, what started that with the VA?

AMANDA LIENAU: The reason to cast a wide net is it's tricky to figure out how to navigate how you might work with the va. The va is enormous it's overwhelming for an individual solver like a vet with a great solution to engage the va meaningfully so what we wanted to do was not assume we had the answer and to open the door to new solvers and give them a chance to connect directly with us.