SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah doctors and hospitals will soon begin using an assessment that can help predict a person's risk of suicide.
The Columbia-Suicide Severity Rating Scale ranks a person's risk of suicide based on their answers to a series of questions.
The assessment was developed by a team at Columbia University and is already being used by some mental health workers in Utah.
"Suicide is our No. 1 preventable cause of death, and we know that identification is the key to the prevention," said Dr. Kelly Posner, who directed the Columbia team that developed the assessment. "It used to be that people would ask about the suicide attempt but then miss the person who bought the gun yesterday."
KSL-TV reports (http://bit.ly/14NaacO ) University Hospital and Intermountain Healthcare are both planning to begin using it in their hospitals.
Posner said the test is particularly valuable for primary care doctors.
"Fifty percent of suicides see their primary care doctor the month before they die," Posner said. "We should be asking these questions the way we monitor for blood pressure."
Example questions include queries such as "Have you wished you were dead or not alive anymore, or wish to fall asleep and not wake up?"
The assessment will also help doctors and mental health professionals use their resources more efficiently by determining when an intervention is not needed.
"In the past it wasn't so clear which answers to worry about," she said. "It's impacting care delivery and service utilization."
The adaptation of the test in Utah is one of the latest of many recent efforts to tackle the problem of suicides in the state, said Doug Gray, a suicidologist at the University of Utah.
"I've been involved in suicide prevention for 20 years, and this has been our best year ever in terms of resources and programming," Gray said.
For years, Gray urged Utah leaders to create a statewide suicide prevention coordinator, and this year the state Legislature created two such positions.
Kim Myers, who managed a prevention program for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, was recently named the new statewide suicide prevention coordinator working in the Utah Department of Human Services.
Debi Lewis, a who was formerly a counselor at West Jordan Middle School, is heading up a similar effort focused just on schools for the state Office of Education.
Posner said the strides Utah is making to address suicide are exciting.
"Utah is taking it to the next level in all the ways that we can do it," she said. "With the legislature, around the state, it is a comprehensive model."