AdventHealth, UCF collaborate on suicide-prevention initiative

A girl sitting at a table in the library on her laptop.

Fla., ORLANDO, Fla., March 20, 2019 — AdventHealth is collaborating with the University of Central Florida to address a growing suicide crisis across the nation.

The effort is modeled after the Zero Suicide Initiative, a national program to reduce suicide deaths, which have risen dramatically in recent years. Rates of suicide have increased by more than 25 percent across the U.S. since 1999, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Florida, the rate of increase is more than 10 percent.

The program also addresses a need raised by AdventHealth’s Community Health Needs Assessment, which consistently finds access to mental-health treatment is lacking across Central Florida.

The UCF-AdventHealth collaboration will focus on patients who come into the emergency rooms at AdventHealth Kissimmee and AdventHealth Orlando exhibiting signs of suicidal thoughts or behaviors. Currently, those patients might be held in the ER for up to 12 hours waiting for a spot to become available in a psychiatric facility. Or they might be discharged, only to return to the ER in the following weeks.

If a patient shows warning signs for suicide, social workers will call and check in with them to monitor suicide risk, provide psychosocial education and support, and to make linkages to community supports on a regular basis for up to 90 days.

“The idea is to establish a relationship with the patient, so if the patient goes into an acute crisis, they have a point person who has a psychiatric background and clinical training in suicide prevention,” said Robert Geissler, director of emergency services at AdventHealth Kissimmee. “That point person can connect them with appropriate resources, rather than having them go back to the ER.”

In addition to the social-worker support, the program involves training ER staff and chaplains to recognize and treat patients who may be dealing with suicidal thoughts or feelings.

Kim Gryglewicz of UCF’s College of Health Professions and Sciences is leading the research effort in conjunction with the AdventHealth Research Institute.

“From a research perspective, we’re trying to answer two major questions: How do we improve safety measures and practices? And how do we use outcome measures to track what we’re doing to improve suicide care?” Gryglewicz said. “We will be working to implement best practices in the ED setting using a comprehensive strategy for screening, suicide risk assessment and safety planning, and then tracking what happens post-discharge, with the ultimate goal of preventing suicides and attempts from happening.”

In the long term, the same practices and procedures could be implemented at other care sites throughout Central Florida, with the potential to expand statewide and across the nation.

Available data on young people shows similar support services allowed 80 percent to be discharged from follow-up care no longer at risk for suicide, with the remaining 20 percent needing follow-up care.

Gryglewicz expects that researchers might find similar benefits among adult patients after the 90-day program. She hopes to have preliminary data after about six months.

The program is funded by a three-year grant from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

About AdventHealth

Founded in 1908 by pioneering Seventh-day Adventists who believed in whole-person health — healing the body, mind and spirit — AdventHealth has grown into one of the largest nonprofit hospitals in the country, caring for more than two million patient visits per year in metro Orlando alone. AdventHealth operates nearly 50 hospitals and hundreds of care centers in nearly a dozen states, making it one of the largest faith-based health-care systems in the United States.

AdventHealth’s Central Florida Division encompasses 16 hospitals in the six counties in and surrounding metro Orlando: Orange, Seminole, Osceola, Lake, Volusia and Flagler. The Central Florida Division’s care network also includes more than 30 CentraCare urgent-care centers; dozens of sports-rehab and imaging centers; and hundreds of physicians, ranging from primary care to a full spectrum of specialties.

AdventHealth Orlando, the division’s flagship campus, serves both as a community hospital and as a major tertiary referral hospital for the region, much of the Southeast, the Caribbean and Latin America.

AdventHealth Orlando is a designated statutory teaching hospital and trains physicians from around the world on the newest technology and procedures. The system provides a wide range of health services, including many nationally and internationally recognized programs in cardiology, cancer, women’s medicine, neuroscience, diabetes, orthopedics, pediatrics, transplant and advanced surgical programs.

The AdventHealth Research Institute has more than 250 investigators and more than 500 clinical trials in progress. AdventHealth Orlando is also home to the Translational Research Institute for Metabolism & Diabetes and the Nicholson Center for Surgical Advancement.

About the University of Central Florida

Founded in 1963 with a commitment to expanding opportunity and demanding excellence, the University of Central Florida develops the talent needed to advance the prosperity and welfare of our society.

With more than 68,000 students, UCF is one of the nation’s largest universities, offering more than 200 degree programs at its main campus in Orlando, medical school and more than a dozen other locations in Central Florida and online.

UCF was ranked by U.S. News & World Report as among the nation’s top 10 most innovative universities along with Stanford, Carnegie Mellon and Georgia Tech, and has been described by The Washington Post as “part of a vanguard that is demolishing the popular belief that exclusivity is a virtue in higher education.” For more information, visit

Learn more about the College of Health Professions and Sciences and School of Social Work at and, respectively.