#MentalHealthHackathon: The White House Hosts Suicide Prevention Data Jam

CWCPtqAUsAEcl-pOn Saturday, December 12, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) convened data scientists, engineers, designers and subject matter experts in Boston, Washington, New York, Chicago and San Francisco to hack mental health.

These integrated jams in five cities were a follow-up to the Partnerships for Suicide Prevention data summit, hosted by the Obama Administration on October 9, as part of Global Mental Health Day for Suicide Prevention. 

The mission of these events: leverage data and technology to strengthen mental health and suicide prevention efforts.

Behavioral Health Link’s CEO Wendy Schneider and Chief Innovations Officer Mark Livingston participated in the Washington event which was held at Impact Hub DC, and shared their experience with me.

CWCNNzhU8AUr_KKWendy described the palpable energy as the first ever US Chief Data Scientist Dr. DJ Patil welcomed the group. “Data science is a team sport, and we all have to do this together,” he began. His keynote address was an inspiring start.

Kristen Honey, OSTP Policy Advisor instantly connected everyone in the room, regardless of technology background: “A story is data with a soul.”

The stir to action was commitment to our responsibilities as citizens and stepping both feet down on the challenge of suicide. “Citizenship is a verb,” challenged Beth Flores, Managing Director for Impact Hub DC.

2015-12-15_23-25-12The themes that emerged during the brainstorming and sharing: more access, open data and #hackredtape. Susannah Fox, Chief Technology Officer for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, described the goal as “the default for government data AND mental health conversations should be open.”

This is transformed government. Dr. Patil encouraged the group that “the best ideas for policy come from outside the building.” Anticipatory. Collaborative. Outcomes focused. Transparent.

Mark and Wendy were able to share the technology innovations and decade-long data stream created by the bhlweb system with the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities. Since 2006, the “air traffic control” technology integration of the Crisis and Access Line has dramatically reduced wait times for intensive services and reduced reliance upon costly and intrusive acute care services.

There was a lot of buzz about the cutting-edge Georgia approach to care coordination (see it in action here), but what jazzed Wendy and Mark was the spirit and dialogue of this diverse group and the juxtaposition of suicide prevention experts and policy makers alongside data scientists and entrepreneurs. Just striking.

The BHL leaders returned to Atlanta inspired that we mental health leaders should take more risks, be more agile, cross-pollinate much more frequently and spark more movements focused on making change happen… today.

Note: President Obama declared World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10, 2015.

“Suicide prevention is the responsibility of all people… If you are hurting, know this: You are not forgotten. You are never alone. Your country is here for you, and help is available… As one people, we stand with all who struggle with mental illness, and we continue our work to prevent this heartbreak in our communities.”

– President Barack Obama, World Suicide Prevention Day 2015




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