Brown University and Michigan State University will share a $6.8 million federal grant to test an intervention to reduce suicides among people being released from jail.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Suicide risk is high among people in jail and even higher during the transition when they return home. With a new $6.8-million grant, researchers at Brown University and Michigan State University will test whether a new intervention can help preserve the lives of people who are going through the system, often with mental health and substance abuse difficulties.

In the Suicide Prevention for at-Risk Individuals in Transition — SPIRIT — trial, the researchers plan to enroll 800 detainees as they leave either the Rhode Island Department of Corrections jail in Cranston or the Genesee County Jail in Flint, Mich. Participants will randomly be assigned to either standard care or the Safety Planning Intervention, conducted by trained community mental health center providers. Among people receiving both types of care, researchers will track improvements in suicidal behavior and psychiatric and substance abuse outcomes, as well as their use of community services and their re-arrest rates.

Lauren M. Weinstock, associate professor (research) of psychiatry and human behavior in the Alpert Medical School of Brown University, and Jennifer E. Johnson, the C.S. Mott Endowed Professor of Public Health at MSU’s College of Human Medicine, are co-principal investigators on the study. Johnson is also an adjunct associate professor at Brown.

“We will be evaluating the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of a Safety Planning Intervention, with telephone follow-up to problem-solve around stressors and to promote safety and community service utilization during the post-release period,” said Weinstock, a clinical psychologist at Butler Hospital. “Given that roughly 10 percent of all suicides in the United States with known circumstances occur in the context of a recent criminal legal stressor, reducing suicide risk in the year after jail detention could have a noticeable impact on national suicide rates.”

The four-year grant comes from the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institutes of Health Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research, and the National Institute of Justice.