CVS Health makes strides in reducing Aetna member suicide attempts

·3 min read

Story at a glance

  • CVS Health and Aetna are working to meet The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s goal of reducing America’s suicide rate by 20 percent by 2025.

  • The companies have made strides with regard to adult attempt rates, but progress is still needed to address the youth mental health crisis.

  • Data provided by CVS Health mirror national trends among teenagers.

CVS Health has seen a 34 percent decrease in suicide attempts among adult Aetna members between 2021 and March of 2022, compared with rates measured in 2019.

The decline is thanks to Aetna and CVS Health initiatives modeled on the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s (AFSP) goal to reduce the country’s suicide rate by 20 percent by the year 2025. Aetna was acquired by CVS in 2017.

Data show CVS Health’s efforts resulted in a nearly 16 percent overall decline in suicide attempts among members through March of 2022 compared with baselines measured in 2019.

In 2021, there was a 17.5 percent decrease in attempts among those aged 18 or older.

But despite the strides made among adult members, significant progress is still needed for adolescents.

For Aetna members between the ages 13 and 17, 2021 saw a 43 percent increase in suicide attempts. Through March of 2022, the total dipped to a 32 percent increase compared with 2019 baselines.

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The data follows similar national trends. In December 2021, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy issued an advisory on youth mental health exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our members are not immune to the national suicide crisis reported by the CDC. Though we are on track lowering suicide attempts in adults, our goal will not be reached until we can say the same for adolescents,” said Sree Chaguturu, executive vice president and chief medical officer of CVS Health in a statement.

In 2020, suicide was the second leading cause of death for those aged 10 through 14 and 25 through 34, while there were nearly double the amount of suicides than homicides reported that year, according to The National Institute of Mental Health.

Because the majority of those who attempt suicide have an underlying mental health disorder, suicides can be preventable.

Reductions seen among adults are a result of a suicide prevention screening program that is carried out among all members seen by clinical staff, even if they’re not considered “at risk.” Specialty suicide risk-reducing programs were also made available to members as an out patient resource.

The company’s Caring Contacts program, which reaches out to members following a suicide attempt via postcards, provides them with support and additional resources. Early results show members who have been reached out to experienced up to a 50 percent reduction of repeat suicide attempts.

“We are doubling down on efforts to prevent suicide in teens by identifying those most at-risk and in need of intervention, reaching out to those discharged from the ER after a suicide attempt with resources and supporting parents and loved ones in prioritizing the mental health of their kids,” Chaguturu added.

Additional company efforts include expanding resources and outreach to adolescents through programs like Aetna’s Adolescent Outreach Program and Aetna’s partnership with Vita Health and Oui Therapeutics.

Aetna also collaborates with health care providers to ensure they have the necessary resources to identify and treat young individuals at risk for suicide.

“Every suicide attempt prevented, life saved, and mental health resource sought is an important step to reducing death by suicide in the United States,” said Cara McNulty, president of behavioral health and mental well-being at CVS Health.

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