How Elevance Health achieved a 20% drop in suicide rates among young people

Elevance Health has achieved a drastic reduction in youth and young adult suicides through predictive modeling and clinical outreach.

Becker's sat down with Jessica Chaudhary, MD, a medical director at Carelon Behavioral Health and director of the Suicide Prevention Program, to discuss why the company created the program and what it's achieved since launching in 2018. At the time, suicide rates among young people nationwide had increased more than 56 percent over the past two decades.

"It had really reached a point of crisis in this country," Dr. Chaudhary said. "So what we began to do was create a new algorithm, which uses predictive modeling and analytics to assess risk factors among people that are at a really high risk for either a first suicide attempt or a repeat suicide attempt."

The program was originally offered to members ages 12 to 26 and has since been expanded to ages 10 and 11 as well. The model predicts who is at high risk for a suicide event by analyzing prior mental health diagnoses, substance use issues, certain medications, pharmacy and mental health claims data, along with medical conditions that may also be linked to higher rates of suicide. For those at high risk, proactive outreach is conducted over the phone by clinical case managers and peer wellness and recovery specialists. The program also offers resources and messaging around how to better manage and access in-network mental health services.

"This is a program that's not responding to crisis, we're actually trying to avert a crisis," Dr. Chaudhary said. "This is trying to move the risk categories upstream and offering early intervention so that members don't end up in an emergency room, a psychiatric hospital, or even with a suicide attempt."

The suicide prevention program is offered in some of Elevance's markets to a total of 4,200 commercial or managed care plan members. 

From 2018 to March 2023, the program has achieved a more than 20 percent reduction in adolescent and young adult suicides for commercial risk-based members and a 30 percent reduction in monthly behavioral health spending per member. Elevance's gross behavioral health savings has reached nearly $12 million, and gross physical health savings has reached nearly $5 million.

"When you do the right thing clinically, the savings are going to fall into place," Dr. Chaudhary said. "But it's also important that you do the right thing for the member."

Dr. Chaudhary said Elevance Health is actively working to continue expanding the program, with a goal of offering it "to as many national accounts as we can for next year." 

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