Columbia Protocol Suicide Prevention App, Connecting Pennsylvania Residents with Local Support




America’s first app designed to help save those with suicidal thoughts has been developed by PS Solutions and introduced first in Blair County, Pennsylvania. Based on the Columbia-Suicide Severity Rating Scale (C-SSRS), the Columbia Protocol App provides instant access to a few simple questions that can help save the life of someone considering suicide.

“Our county’s crisis line has 200 to 400 calls every year,” said Jim Hudack, director for the Blair County Department of Social Services and person responsible for the initial idea. “This app is another way to offer help to the members of our community who need it most.” Users download the iOS or Android app to access questions that gauge when an individual is at risk for suicide; it then recommends an appropriate level of mental health support. The list of questions can be answered within a few minutes, after which users are offered contact information for local and national crisis centers.

“We need to get everyone in our communities asking these questions,” said Dr. Kelly Posner, Director of the Columbia Lighthouse Project, “Just think of how many lives we can save if every parent, police officer, teacher and neighbor downloaded and used this app.”

With over 20 years of research to validate its relevance and effectiveness, the C-SSRS is seen as the gold standard in assessing suicide risk and is used by governments, schools, and communities across the globe. For people who have thought about suicide, simply being asked these questions can come as a relief. One study found that asking the questions reduced distress in depressed respondents.

Blair County operates one of the busiest crisis centers in the state of Pennsylvania, despite having a population of 124,000. In Blair County, 23 residents took their own lives in 2018, a 64% increase from the 2016 total and above the national average of 14.5 deaths per 100,000.

According to a March 2019 study conducted for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the increase in the national suicide rate from 2016 to 2017 was the largest annual increase in nearly 20 years. Suicides rose by 4% from 2016 to 2017 and 22% from 2008 to 2017. Worldwide, almost 1 million people die by suicide each year — equal to one life lost every 40 seconds.

PS Solutions, headquartered in Altoona, Pennsylvania, with offices in Pittsburgh and Wilmington, North Carolina, was chosen by Blair County to develop the app. The app will work as-is nationwide, sending all callers to the national hotline; it can also be customized by PS Solutions to include contact information for hotlines in other counties, cities, and states, which would be delivered based on the user’s phone location.

TO DOWNLOAD: Search the app store for Columbia Protocol. It will say it’s by "PROFESSIONAL STAFFING SOLUTIONS, LLC.".

It can be found on the Play Store for Android or the App Store for iOS

Follow #PSSolutions on social media LinkedIn |  Twitter |  Facebook


A Decade of Delivery


PS Solutions - 10th Anniversary

Sometimes opportunity is subtle, sometimes it hits you over the head, and sometimes it actually seems to worm its way into your consciousness. PS Solutions might be any one of those, depending on the time frame. But in January of 2009, it was as though the clouds parted and said: “NOW!” Wayne Hippo and Joe Merilli had bantered about the idea of starting a business 10 years earlier, but somehow the timing just didn’t seem right. Jobs, civic commitments, family affairs all weighed too heavily. But in late 2008 they revisited the idea. After more than 20 years in technology and human resources, Joe watched his employers as they scaled and grew. Wayne had spent 20 years advising businesses, municipalities and working in employment law. They were both in the ‘Rolodex’ business, having built strong relationships for years across technology industries. It was time they built this for themselves. The start was easier than they thought, with connections that spread across southwestern Pennsylvania. They began simply as an extension of companies’ HR departments, placing technical experts in organizations, finding the right skills and the best personality match.

Internalizing the External

Shortly after the business started growing, they noted that the demand for outsourced software continued to grow. As Joe is, first and foremost, a tech guy, this part of the expansion came very naturally. After identifying some projects with their current clients, they hired contractors for PS Solutions, becoming their own customer. Soon there was so much work they were directly hiring software developers in full time positions on the PS Solutions team. “We are fully committed to our team,” said Hippo. “They are the ones that make our company work, so we take care of them not just with salaries, but also with the best benefits package we can assemble.” It works. The employees appreciate the opportunity to have a solid place to work with challenging projects. And it helps that they are truly impacting the American employment landscape. In fact, PS Solutions now has three very different offices: Altoona, Pittsburgh and now Wilmington, NC. “We watched as company after company outsourced their software development, taking jobs away from Americans because it was cheaper overseas,” said Merilli. “We found a way to ‘Offshore America’ – to build a strategy where we employ really smart people in smaller towns where the cost of living is lower and the quality of life higher. It’s really win-win-win-win… for the employees, the small cities our clients and America.”

Forward!

So, where does PS Solutions go from here? As pragmatic as Merilli and Hippo are, you can guess: it’s the next logical step. PS Solutions is developing their own software and application packages. Within the month, PS Solutions will launch their first app, becoming a software vendor themselves. And given their propensity of community focus, the app will be consequential: nothing short of helping prevent suicide. Keep your eyes here on this blog… We’ll continue to bring you the stories that paint with clarity what the next decade will deliver.

Follow #PSSolutions on social media LinkedIn |  Twitter |  Facebook

Wayne Hippo - PS Solutions Owner - PS SolutionsJoe Merilli - PS Solutions Founder - PS Solutions




FIND OUT MORE



Altoona Development Center
1601 Eleventh Avenue
Ste. 201
Altoona, PA, 16601

Pittsburgh Development Center
600 River Avenue
Ste. 103
Pittsburgh, PA, 15212

Wilmington Development Center
2109 Capital Drive
Ste. 170
Wilmington, NC, 28405