Three members of the East Tennessee State University College of Nursing have received a $20,000 grant that will allow them to implement an evidence-based suicide prevention program at four Health Wagon clinics in rural Appalachia.
Dr. Christine Mullins, Dr. Teresa Carnevale, and Dr. Vallire Hooper were the 2020 recipients of the Sigma Theta Tau International/American Nurses Credentialing Center Evidence-Based Practice Implementation Grant awarded by Sigma Theta Tau International, a global honor society for nurses.
“The goal of our program is to identify people who are at-risk for suicide in the primary care setting and promote prompt referrals to behavioral health specialists,” said Mullins, assistant professor in the College of Nursing. “This grant money is going to be used to implement a suicide prevention program and to develop a resource guide that’s going to be delivered to all of the providers at the Health Wagon. We will provide them with an educational program, educational toolkits, a suicide prevention algorithm, and a suicide prevention point-of-care contact from Frontier Health via telehealth, then monitor their use and effectiveness.”
The Health Wagon is a nonprofit organization providing mobile health services to the medically underserved in Southwest Virginia since 1980. It is the oldest mobile clinic in the nation and provides a variety of medical and dental services at its mobile and brick-and-mortar sites. In addition, the Health Wagon is led by several ETSU College of Nursing alumni.
Mullins lives in southwest Virginia and volunteers weekly at the Health Wagon clinic site in Coeburn, Virginia. She saw a need for a targeted suicide prevention effort in rural communities and partnered with her colleagues to develop the evidence-based prevention program.
“Dr. Mullins has been an active part in the mission of the Health Wagon serving the population of rural Appalachia for the past three years,” said Dr. Teresa Tyson, president and CEO of the Health Wagon and an ETSU alumna. “The Health Wagon is committed to the implementation of evidenced-based practice to improve the quality of life, safety and health of the patients served in rural Appalachia, and this quality improvement project is a wonderful opportunity to benefit our patients.”
In addition to working with the Health Wagon, the faculty members have also enlisted help from Frontier Health, a provider of behavioral health services including treatment for mental health, co-occurring and substance abuse problems; recovery and vocational rehabilitation; and developmental and intellectual disabilities services. When a primary care provider at a Health Wagon clinic identifies a patient who is at high risk for suicide, that patient will have an immediate referral to Frontier Health.
“If a patient is at risk for suicide, we want to make sure that we have a point-of-care contact immediately so that there is a hand-off and the patient receives the care they need in the primary care office,” said Carnevale, assistant professor in the ETSU College of Nursing. “Our goal is to close the gap and make sure that patients get the services they need.”
The team will implement the program this November, and it will continue through May 2022.
“This grant is an honor for ETSU, as it’s a highly competitive, international grant,” said Hooper, associate dean for research and scholarship in the College of Nursing.
Mullins points out that the beneficiaries of the grant funding are patients in rural Appalachia.
“We are humbled to receive this grant, and I am so happy to be able to implement this where I live,” Mullins said. “This is going to impact a lot of people in Southwest Virginia, and I’m very proud to be able to bring these grant monies to our region.”