The Mental Health Association for Greater Baton Rouge is implementing a
COVID-19 Emergency Response for Suicide Prevention Project in southeast Louisiana to help contain the expected increase in mental health problems for Louisiana citizens. The project includes several components and Baton Rouge psychologist, Dr. Sonia Blauvelt, is leading the suicide prevention program.
The announcement from the Association noted that: Socially and financially disadvantaged families are more vulnerable to stresses and traumas, and the risk
for mental health problems and domestic violence increases after families face
extreme adversity, such as those related to COVID-19 disruptions and trauma.
Blauvelt explained, “We identified these areas of southeast Louisiana as
having high rates of COVID19 infection and deaths, high rates of intimate partner violence, and poor health outcomes overall,” she said. “These factors leave individuals even more vulnerable to deterioration in mental health in addition to having limited resources.”
The project is funded by Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and managed through the Louisiana Department of Health, Office of Behavioral Health.
There is a great need for community based services for people with suicidal thoughts
and behaviors,” said Blauvelt, “and we hope this program will reduce the high level of
hospitalizations and inpatient stays for people who experience higher risk of suicide.”
In her role, Blauvelt helps case managers implement the suicide case management program and she will provide clinical supervision and intervention when necessary. “I also work to partner with general hospitals and mental health hospitals in the regions
we are serving to identify individuals who may need suicide prevention services so that we can get referrals to our program,” she said.
Dr. Blauvelt is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in Baton Rouge. Her PhD is from Louisiana State University and she interned at the Charlie Norwood VA/Medical College of Georgia in Augusta, Georgia where she specialized in treating
Veterans with military sexual trauma. She currently treats PTSD, trauma-related disorders, and anxiety disorders, with special attention to cultural factors related to mental health.
Dr. Blauvelt is working closely with LSU assistant professor of psychology, Dr. Raymond Tucker, who founded the LSU Mitigation of Suicidal Behavior research laboratory. He is clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at LSUHSC/OLOL, and trains medical staff/students in suicide-specific assessment and intervention protocols.
Dr. Tucker is also the co-director of the National Suicidology Training Center where he
provides training on suicide-specific interventions, including suicide safety planning,
post-vention programming, and motivational interviewing for suicide prevention.
Dr. Tucker said, “In tandem with Frank Campbell and the National Suicidology Training Center, I have helped develop the suicide case management program and train peer support providers and other staff at the Mental Health Association in this program,” he said.
“The program uses a variety of clinical and follow-up techniques that have been found to reduce risk for suicide in adults after receiving care in emergency facilities. The program particularly uses the Safety Planning Intervention and Caring Contacts to help support at-risk adults as they get setup and started with outpatient clinical services. My
own research, in collaboration with researchers at VA Puget Sound in Seattle, has investigated specific ways of using Caring Contacts after people leave acute care facilities and best practices for how to create these contact cards,” he explained.
The COVID-19 Emergency Response for Suicide Prevention Project includes four main components, according to the Mental Health Association (MHA).
Case Management for individuals who have attempted suicide or are identified as having chronic suicide ideation. This includes all of the following elements – screening,
assessment, safety planning and means restriction, discharge planning, transition care, warm hand offs to treatment or community organizations.
Another component is First Responder and other Health Care Professionals Suicide Prevention Training, partnering with the National Suicidology Training Center to provide more trainings on suicide prevention and Postvention strategies for first responders and providers across the state.
For Suicide Prevention Training for the general public, the Association is partnering with
the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Louisiana Chapter to provide statewide
suicide prevention training for the general public, including both safe Talk and ASIST
The fourth component is Suicide Prevention Outreach to Domestic Violence Victims. The Association is partnering with Southeastern Louisiana University, Discovery/Renew Family Resource Projects to establish an advocative role for domestic violence victims and establish a relationship with shelters and other domestic violence coalitions and resources to address trauma.
One challenge for Dr. Blauvelt and Dr. Tucker is getting the word out and networking.
“A major difficulty is networking with all the different hospitals and clinics in the area to ensure that the program is known, understood, and offered to the correct patients,” said Tucker.
“I echo Ray’s sentiments,” said Blauvelt, “about difficulty networking and ensuring that only eligible people are referred. Although we have hired and trained half of the staff needed to begin services, we continue to recruit case managers/peer support specialists to finalize our team. It is a challenge to hire the right individuals to do this critical work. We are confident we will have a full team soon,” she said.
“We are actively accepting and seeking clients in the program. MHA continues to finalize formal agreements with community partners necessary to fully implement this program. The training element of this grant is also underway. The National Suicidology Training Center has completed two first responder trainings. The National Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Louisiana Chapter has also completed two trainings to the general public,” Blauvelt explained. “MHA is also working with the Family Resource Center in Southeastern University to target victims of domestic violence who are at greater risk for suicide.”
Dr. Tucker said, “We hope a program like this is a part of growing community efforts to
prevent suicide in Louisiana.”
[For additional information contact Dr. Blauvelt at https://www.drblauvelt.com/]