We are seeking bold innovations to save lives and reduce Veteran suicide by at least 10%. Recognizing that there are other entities, including but not limited to academia, industry, nonprofits, other government agencies, community partners, and Veteran-service organizations, engaged in both identifying innovation solutions as well as being direct service providers, the VA Suicide Prevention Grand Challenge (VA SPGC) serves as a pipeline to rapidly source suicide prevention innovations from non-VA entities (Report links substance use and suicide among Veterans, offers support, Vantage Point.)
The following are potential areas, among several, that VA SPGC may explore:
- Digital Life Data & Early Warning Systems—Innovators are sought who can develop scalable and interoperable suicide risk prevention analytics that are ethical and clinically valid in an effort to enhance real-time prevention and responsive interventions that are local and accessible for Veterans in VHA care as well as Veterans outside of VHA care and in crisis.
- Improved Access to Veterans Crisis Line (VCL) Services— As VCL faces the opportunities that 988 adoption will bring to our mission of providing world class crisis care to Veterans, we are looking for innovative solutions that can improve efficiency and quality during expected increase in volume. Innovators are sought who can leverage artificial intelligence, machine learning and natural language processing to better understand patterns, unknown signals, and unexpected relationships. This objective will also incorporate process flow innovations that use technology and non-technology solutions for crisis line staffing and operational improvements.
- Firearm suicide prevention and lethal means safety— In 2019 the majority of firearm deaths in the United States (Firearm Violence Prevention, Violence Prevention Injury Center, CDC) were suicides and among Veterans, nearly 70% of suicide deaths in 2019 were by firearm (2021 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report (va.gov)). We will seek innovative solutions to prevent firearm suicide.
Following are additional parameters for consideration in developing innovations:
- Target Community—Innovations shall meet the needs of service members transitioning out of the military, Veterans enrolled in VA healthcare or receiving VA benefits and Veterans not enrolled in VA healthcare or benefits.
- Prevention/Intervention Implementation Timing—The prevention/intervention innovation can provide solutions addressing immediate impact (Now); near-term impact (Next) or long-term impact (Later) efforts.
- Health Equity—Innovations should account for specific subpopulations such as women Veterans, new Veterans (those who are planning to transition or have transitioned in the last 1-3 years), Veterans ages 55 and over, Veterans ages 18-34, and American Indian, Alaska Native, Black, African American Veterans, Asian American, Latin or Hispanic Veterans and LGBTQ+ Veterans.
Suicide remains a national public health concern—45,861 American adults died from suicide in 2019, including 6,261 U.S. Veterans. While suicide can affect all Americans, it has been shown to have a disproportionate impact on the Veteran community. Hope serves as a key and necessary anchor to strengthen Veterans amidst numerous life circumstances. In a similar manner, hope must imbue the overall suicide prevention mission, anchoring it amidst mission challenges and circumstances. The 2021 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report (va.gov) provides the most comprehensive analysis of Veteran suicide data. Regarding lethal means involved in suicide deaths among Veterans, firearms accounted for 70.2% of male Veteran suicides in 2019 (up from 69.6% in 2018) and 49.8% of female Veteran suicides in 2019 (up from 41.1% in 2018). The proportion of firearm-related Veteran suicide deaths increased in 2019 compared to 2001.
The SPGC will award at least $15 million dollars in prize funds.
Judging Details regarding the judging panel, processes, and criteria will be posted and updated at a later date on Challenge.gov and at https://spgchallenge.com .
Rules Details regarding the rules, eligibility for participation, and terms and conditions will be posted and updated at a later date on Challenge.gov and at https://spgchallenge.com.
Prize breakdown is forthcoming.
Access to VA subject matter experts based on their availability, potential for demonstration and or research projects to be developed to further evaluate the effectiveness of the solution(s).