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Newsletter | South Central MIRECC

Banner of the SC MIRECC communique newsletter

Winter 2019, Volume 21, Issue 1 - In this Issue

Little Rock Site Update
Researchers Awarded ORH Funds for FY19
VISN 16 Providers Train in ACT
Research to Practice | Veteran Attitudes about Smartphone App Use for MH Care
Clinicians, Researchers & Staff Recognized with SC MIRECC Awards
Recent Publications
Pilot Study Research Program Applications Due April 1
Implementation, Design and Analysis Support Available for Affiliates

Little Rock Site Update

Dr. Jeff Pyne
Dr. Jeff Pyne

By Jeff Pyne, MD, Little Rock Site Leader

Editor’s note: SC MIRECC is a virtual center serving VISNs 16 and 17 with anchor sites in Houston Texas, Little Rock, Arkansas, and New Orleans, Louisiana. This month we learn about the work taking place in Little Rock.

Growing Research

Little Rock is home to three VA mental health research centers: SC MIRECC, the HSR&D Center of Innovation (Center for Mental Healthcare and Outcomes Research or CeMHOR: Director Dr. Rick Owen), and the Behavioral Health Quality Enhancement Research Initiative (BH QUERI; Director Dr. JoAnn Kirchner). Our centers work together, sharing researchers, staff, and resources to grow research in areas such as rural mental health, access, implementation, and suicide prevention.

CeMHOR was renewed by VA HSR&D in 2018. This year, CeMHOR is planning research that makes a meaningful impact on VA care delivery and policy by improving access to care for Veterans with mental health and substance use disorder needs, especially those at high risk for suicide and living in rural areas. These studies include:

  • Measuring Veteran’s perceptions of care and incorporating those data into care delivery,
  • Developing Veteran-centered strategies to reduce suicide and self-harm risk, and
  • Implementing evidence-based practices.
Drs. Teresa Hudson and Rick Owen
Drs. Teresa Hudson and Rick Owen

Currently, two proposals are being written for the HSR&D Consortium of Research (CORE) and Research to Impact for Veterans (RIVR) grant programs. The CORE proposal aims to accelerate research that will lead to measurable improvements in Veterans care to prevent suicide. If funded, Dr. Teresa Hudson will lead the CORE project and it will support the implementation of integrating evidence-based suicide prevention interventions with geospatial analysis of suicide risk. The RIVR proposal will advance the realization of a 5-year CeMHOR impact goal that aligns with VA legislative, Office of Research & Development, and HSR&D priorities. The RIVR project will be led by Dr. Owen.

Supporting VA Suicide Prevention Efforts

Two projects in Little Rock are centered on suicide prevention, ED-VETS (PI: Dr. Angie Waliski), which aims to identify and assist Veterans receiving treatment for suicide in community emergency departments (EDs), and an evaluation of the implementation of the Recovery Engagement and Coordination for Health - Veterans Enhanced Treatment (REACH VET) initiative (PI: Dr. Sara Landes).

Dr. Angie Waliski
Dr. Angie Waliski

ED-VETS is an HSR&D pilot grant that uses a community-level public health approach to identify military Veteran status and suicide risk in patients who report suicidal ideation or attempts to community EDs. Dr. Waliski’s project aims to determine the acceptability and feasibility of referring patients identified as Veterans to mental health care at a VA facility or community facility.

The study and design evolved out of concerns identified by members of the Arkansas Suicide Prevention Council and Arkansas Veterans groups, interviews with the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System suicide prevention staff, and feedback from Veteran consumers. Currently in its first year, ED-VETS will:

  1. Conduct qualitative interviews with doctors and nurses of 10 community hospital EDs that serve Arkansas counties with the highest rates of suicide to document barriers and facilitators to identifying Veteran status, assessing suicide risk, and arranging post-discharge aftercare with admitted patients.
  2. Identify acceptability and feasibility of a standardized suicide risk assessment, military Veteran status assessment, and how best to coordinate care among community EDs, VA facilities, and other mental health resources.

REACH VET is a national suicide prevention initiative that uses predictive modeling and medical record data to identify and assist Veterans at the highest risk for suicide. Funded by HSR&D, Dr. Landes’ project will help determine how facilitation can support REACH VET implementation across VA by evaluating the impact of facilitation on reach, adoption, and fidelity of the model, as well as the cost of facilitation. She partners with the Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, which is supporting implementation facilitation to 28 sites across 7 VISNs; the Rocky Mountain MIRECC, whose suicide prevention experts are serving as facilitators; and Dr. John McCarthy and SMITREC, who are evaluating the impact of REACH VET on Veteran outcomes.

During the past year, Dr. Landes was an invited presenter at VA Research Day on the Hill in Washington DC and featured in HSR&D quarterly newsletter. This year, her team will complete facilitation to sites, continue follow up qualitative interviews, and work with partners on evaluating the impact of REACH VET on Veteran outcomes. VA providers interested in learning more about REACH VET can visit the site on the VA intranet. To learn more about SC MIRECC research in Little Rock, email

Dr. Landes and her study team
Left: Dr. Sara Landes with REACH VET program materials. Top and bottom right: Researchers and staff of the REACH VET implementation evaluation study.

Last updated: January 23, 2019