David W. Covington, LPC, MBA

27 Covington

The experience of the Central Arizona Programmatic Suicide Deterrent System Project shows that dramatic progress can be made by specialty health plans and systems that focus on the population at highest risk for suicide: individuals with serious mental illness (SMI) and severe emotional disturbance (SED).

In 2009, David Covington of Magellan Health challenged a community collaborative of the ten largest behavioral health providers to eliminate suicide for those enrolled in the Regional Behavioral Health Authority (RBHA).

The May/June 2011 Behavioral Healthcare talked about some of the encouraging early feedback that correlates with this project, including a 38 percent reduction in suicide deaths, decreased hospitalization rates for those enrolled in ACT and dramatic increases in staff confidence following two day ASIST training (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training). According to Covington, the essential elements of this project included:

  • Comprehensive CMHC staff training to move suicide care from specialty referral to core mission;
  • Suicide attempt survivor leadership and support, through participation in design and implementation of peer support groups;
  • Active engagement of family in the treatment process, “the new normal,” and community integration and support; and
  • Development of race and ethnicity best practices for suicide care

In 2010, Mr. Covington and Dr. Michael Hogan began partnering together on the National Action Alliance task force which published the Suicide Care in Systems Framework. These two co-leads went on to give more than a hundreds presentations in multiple countries spreading the transformative message of Zero.

Together with Dr. Jerry Reed, Mr. Covington convened the first Zero Suicide International summit in Oxford in 2014, and has continued to orchestrate these meetings year over year. He also led the creation of the International Declaration for Better Healthcare: Zero Suicide with Professor Jo Smith.