Suicidal Patients Discharged From Florida VA Facility Left Without Critical Follow-up Care, IG Investigation Shows

VA says Bay Pines Vets’ Care Falls Short

Since 2009 VA records show at least 31 former patients treated at Bay Pines VA died from suicide

by Howard Altman
The Tampa Tribune, June 24, 2012

As the military struggles to cope with an alarming suicide level among veterans, the Department of Veterans Affairs for the first time is monitoring how its hospitals handle patients making the critical transition from hospitalization to living on their own.

The Bay Pines VA is located near Tampa Bay, Fla.

The first published review in the country: Bay Pines VA Health Care System near St. Petersburg.

The results are eye-opening.

The VA’s Office of Inspector General pulled the records of 20 discharged mental health patients at Bay Pines and found that the hospital failed to provide timely follow-up care to eight of those patients.

Inspectors also checked the records of 10 patients considered at high risk of suicide and found the hospital didn’t provide follow-up care in a timely manner for three of those patients.

VA regulations require that all discharged patients receive follow-up contact within seven days of being discharged. If that contact is by phone, an in-person or remote health evaluation must take place in two weeks. High-risk patients must receive two outpatient follow-up evaluations within 14 days of discharge and two more within 15 to 30 days.

The stakes are high.

Mental health experts say the transition from being hospitalized to living on their own is a crucial time — maybe the most crucial time — for patients at risk of committing suicide.

“Continuity of care is a critical issue, particularly for suicidal patients,” said David Rudd, dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Science at the University of Utah and scientific director of the National Center for Veterans Studies.

“Follow-up post-discharge is a contextual warning sign for those with inpatient stays or emergency room referrals for suicidality. Given the significance of suicide risk for veterans, the efforts to track follow-up efforts in the VA system is essential.”

Since 2009, there have been 31 confirmed suicides of patients who had been treated by Bay Pines, according to spokesman Jason Dangel.

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3 Responses

  1. Absolutely, continuing care must be carried out following inpatient treatment. What kind of care was provided in the Hospitals must also be raised? Did the staff introduced Reiki, Massage, Meditation, Relaxation, Movement Therapies, Progressive Relaxation, family support services, etc?

    • Psychiatric therapy at VA hospitals had never helped me as a 100% service-connected DAV for 20 years. I had been hospitalized at least a half-dozen times in VA lock-up wards due to times of severe depression and stress. My track record doesn’t say much regarding any healing benefits of modern day psychiatry. Such mental health facilities do not help veterans in any way to heal from traumatic or even emotional injuries. Such places only apply band-aids to a person’s mind or make worse because the experiences of being locked-up and medicated while being diagnosed as a nut-bag only takes away from a patient’s already low self-esteem and dignity. Good mental health is all about having healthy self-esteem and dignitiy! It’s no wonder veterans have been committing suicide after being locked-up at VA hospital mental health wards. Energy healing modalities is what such places need!!!! Reiki and other healing modalities ARE therapeutic and healing. It’s now being proven more every day that such healing modalities are helping veterans to recover from PTSD and insomnia and that’s just the start of what these new modalities are good for! What’s most important is they do not take away from a person’s sense of dignity and self-esteem.

      • Thanks for sharing, Jesse…this is common practice with our vets and we can be successful with integrative and holistic health practices. We recently completed a 10 month intensive & extensive integrative & holistic health training and everyone is doing very well with their lives, health and relationships. I am very interested in working with vets and injured warriors & families so visit our website and see our self-care plan, protocols, mission, comments from our participants and more.

        Appreciate your service and your comments, Jessie.

        best wishes,


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