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Community Partnership Challenge

The Ralph H. Johnson VA Health Care System Suicide Prevention team accepting the 2021 Community Partnership Award
The Ralph H. Johnson VA Health Care System Suicide Prevention team accepting the 2021 Community Partnership Award

The Ralph H. Johnson VA Health Care System was selected as one of three winners across the nation for the 2021 VHA Community Partnership Challenge.

This is the second consecutive year Charleston has received this award recognizing VA facility partnerships with local community organizations.

   During a virtual ceremony held Thursday, August 19, 2021, Scott Isaacks, Ralph H. Johnson VAHCS Director and CEO, and Jenifer Wray, PhD, Suicide Prevention Supervisor, accepted the award on behalf of the suicide prevention team. 

  For this year’s award, more than 44 VA facilities submitted projects for consideration.  To be recognized as one of the top three performers across all the VA network shows the dedication of this facility to improving health care for Veterans and assisting through some of the toughest battles.  This award shows the commitment of the entire staff, specifically the suicide prevention team, in ensuring Veterans receive the best care available.

  Since 2019, the Ralph H. Johnson VA Health Care System suicide prevention team has partnered with local hospitals in developing a system to improve clinical care for Veterans transitioning from community inpatient mental health treatment to outpatient VA care.  Over the last year, the partnership with the six local hospitals in the Charleston area has resulted in appropriate follow up care for 103 Veterans.

  “We believe that suicide is preventable and these extra steps we are taking to build strong partnerships with our community hospitals is helping us save lives,” said Isaacks. 

  The training program developed by the Ralph H. Johnson VAHCS enables community providers to create an evidence-based suicide prevention safety plan.  The days and weeks following a discharge from a psychiatric unit is a high-risk time for suicidal behavior and death by suicide.  Through this partnership, the Ralph H. Johnson VAHCS and community hospitals can better transition Veterans from community inpatient care to outpatient VA care ensuring scheduled mental health follow up appointments within seven days of discharge.

  “Our commitment is to our Veterans, no matter where they receive care.  Integrating them back into our programs for follow-up care enhances continuity of care, with a long-term outcome of a more comprehensive care plan to keep our Veterans safe,” Isaacks said.

  This community partnership helps prevent critical gaps in care that may occur when a Veteran who receives care at the VA is discharged from a community hospital.  To date, the Ralph H. Johnson VA Health Care System has a robust relationship with six area hospitals and looks forward to expanding the initiative to work more closely with staff at additional facilities throughout the Low Country.

“As I reflect on this award, it is also important to remember that Suicide Prevention Month is in September,” said Isaacks. “While our team is an incredible resource to our Veterans and our community, each one of us can do our part to prevent suicide. In fact, a simple act of kindness, such as sending a check-in text or taking a Veteran out for coffee can make a big impact.”

In addition to the mental health resources at the Ralph H. Johnson VAHCS, there is a Veteran Crisis Line, there is free, confidential support is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year through the Veterans Crisis Line. For Veterans or friends and family concerned about one, confident assistance is only a call, click, or text away.  Call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat confidentially online at or text to 838255.  Help save a life.

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