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Early Alert Aims to Save Lives

VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System is piloting a text-messaging service that could save Veterans’ lives.

Early Alert sends weekly check-in text messages to Veterans to monitor their wellness. If the Veteran has early signs of crisis or thoughts of suicide, it directs them to immediate resources for help. As a proactive communicator, Early Alert uses text messaging to exchange information so there is no app to install, operate or update.

“I really liked that you are able to use the program as a demo before registering, and when I registered, it only took about seven minutes,” said Brandon Shields, a Marine Veteran from Cranberry Township.

Shields, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2009 and 2012, respectively, has been using the service for six weeks. 

“It’s very easy to participate in that it simply asks questions via text, and I simply reply with a number anywhere from one to 10,” said Shields.

For instance, the text messages will ask a user to rate various aspects of their life. Sample questions, Shields said, include requests to rate how satisfied you are with your job, or how confident you are that you have enough money to meet your basic needs.

Based on the Veteran’s response, the text messages will respond accordingly – including pointing the Veteran to helpful resources, if needed.

The confidential tool can also connect the Veteran to a live counselor or provide a one-time “nudge” as a reminder. If the Veteran does not respond to the nudge, they will not hear back until their regularly scheduled time. 

The free service is offered to all Veterans, no matter their status with VA. To schedule a demo of the service, visit Early Alert.

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