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TODAY news for Thursday, June 30, 2008

Loma Linda University Behavioral Medicine Center news

BMC official works to prevent suicide

Lauren Ball, LCSW
Lauren Ball, LCSW
Lauren Ball, LCSW, is an expert on protecting suicidal hospital patients from harm. She puts this knowledge to work to keep patients safe not only at LLU Behavioral Medicine Center, but also at hospitals nationwide. 

Ms. Ball, who is administrative director of youth and social services at Behavioral Medicine Center, both writes and speaks to teach medical professionals to lower the risk of patient suicide. Nationwide, there were

72 instances of suicide in hospitals reported by the Joint Commission in 2007. Suicide is the country’s 11th leading cause of death.

For many hospitals, identifying and protecting suicidal patients is challenging, according to Ms. Ball. The number of designated psychiatric beds in hospitals has decreased markedly in recent years, and psychiatric patients sometimes come to emergency rooms for treatment. Ms. Ball notes that this can be difficult for rural emergency rooms that lack access to psychiatric consultation and the option of transferring patients to a designated psychiatric facility.

Ms. Ball would like to see the number of hospital suicides be zero. To this end, she has shared her knowledge via national audio conferences, as well as a conference of the Association of Hospital Accreditation Professionals. And in December, she will speak about it at the California Hospital Association Behavioral Health Symposium.

Additionally, she has written a book titled Suicide Risk Assessment: Practical Strategies and Tools for Joint Commission Compliance. It is published by HCPro.

The book was born as a result of the Behavioral Medicine Center’s intentional efforts to ensure patient safety within the facility. The hospital follows certain policies and

procedures to prevent patient suicide, and these caught

the attention of consultants who helped the Behavioral Medicine Center prepare for a survey by the Joint Commission (an independent body that accredits and certifies health care organizations in the United States).

“They noticed and complimented our work on suicide risk assessment,” says Ms. Ball, who led out in the project

that established the LLU Behavioral Medicine Center’s suicide prevention policies and procedures.

The consultants shared what the Behavioral Medicine Center was doing with other facilities preparing for Joint Commission survey. Eventually, this led to an HCPro interview of Ms. Ball in its online newsletter, and a few months later, the company asked her to write a book on this topic.

The book’s audience is hospital leadership, educators, and quality resource management personnel. Ms. Ball says she has received positive feedback on her work. 

“A few times a month, I get calls from various hospitals across the country who have read the book and have additional questions, or are asking for permission to use the forms and assessment tools from the book,” she says.

By Heather Reifsnyder

TODAY news for Thursday, June 30, 2008