The Impact of Safety Plans in an Outpatient Clinic

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Abstract

Background: Safety plans are recommended as tools to mitigate suicide risk; however, their effectiveness remains unclear. Aim: To evaluate the impact of safety plans on patient care at an outpatient mental health clinic. Method: In this retrospective chart review, patients' treatment engagement, health-care utilization, and risk behaviors were measured. Patients served as their own historical controls, and we compared outcomes in the 6 months before and 6 months after creation of safety plans. Results: In all, 48 patient charts were identified. Hospitalizations were significantly reduced and use of crisis calls significantly increased after implementation of safety plans. There were five suicide attempts before safety plan completion and one after, representing a trend toward statistical significance. Outpatient encounters increased by 18%, missed appointments increased by 34%, psychiatric emergency room visits decreased by 47%, and a 69% reduction in inpatient hospital days was observed, all trending toward statistical significance. No differences were seen in episodes of violence or self-injurious behavior. Limitations: The study sample was small and there was a lack of randomization. Conclusion: Results suggest that safety plans can lead to improvements in utilization of care and patient engagement. Further research is needed to better understand the clinical impact of safety plans on high-risk patients.

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