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

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Offshore USA: 7 Reasons to Outsource in America

PS Solutions American Software for American Business

Every growing company needs software. Technology is what drives efficiencies that lead to greater profit, and therefore most corporations will turn to creating proprietary software to sharpen their cutting edge.

But when software is not your core competency, you look to outsource the development of your grand ideas. This is what has worked for millions of firms the world over. Often, sacrifices are made when it comes to saving money by shipping development overseas. Some of the sacrifices are clear; others are discovered when you are waist high in the project.

Let’s take a serious look at the top reasons we hear from our clients that have off-shored overseas, then done a u-turn and offshore to small-town USA:


While it may appear at the outset that you’re saving significantly when you compare a $20/hour coder in Asia to a $150/hour coder in the US, you can bet you’ll be getting what you paid for. Many of our clients have pointed out that other non-price issues added so significantly to the overall cost of the project that they would have been better off just keeping the project on- shore and perhaps paying a bit more in wages.


Offshoring development overseas can expose companies to data leaks. Some reports show that 30% of companies that have offshored development have security breach incidents. Even those with NDAs suffered IP loss. Your company’s USP could be littered with more than just bugs – and the resulting court and litigation costs could put your balance sheet at risk.


Someone once described software development to me as a complex social process where people share complicated ideas and abstract concepts. While many eastern Europeans and Asians speak excellent English, there can still be a lost-in-translation opportunity that is further heightened by electronic communication. Intermingling development-speak with English and a third language can spell disaster.


The industry your business targets might be a particularly perplexing one for those outside of the American culture to truly understand. Take healthcare, for example. The American system is unique and comes with a plethora of acronyms and processes that most could never understand. How, then, could they possibly write code that enables the American healthcare system to work better? You can apply that concept to other industries as well – finance, law and insurance spring to mind.


It’s not just the time zone that will get in your way, but the approach to both time management and length of time to complete a project that could make the difference between a successful outsource and a complete failure.

Impact on Jobs

The more we offshore tech jobs, the more our economy takes a hit. “But I’m not responsible for our economy; I’m responsible for my company’s bottom line.” Fine, but don’t take a short-term approach to saving a few bucks. As we noted above, sending your development to Asia is going to cost you more than you expect it to. And that’s just the money. Imagine to whom your company will sell its products when the highly experienced American developers are out of work…

The Investor’s Perspective

Developing your competitive advantage is the real reason behind owning your own software instead of relying on off-the-shelf systems. We’ve heard of late that many angel investors and venture capitalists will not invest in entrepreneurial endeavors that have off-shored their software development. Certainly, that is not true in all cases. But do you need to make that the factor that determines your ability to secure funding?

It’s critical to find a partner that works with you to determine the feasibility of key features, to create a timeline that works for you and your project, that delivers and is easy to communicate with. It’s also important to take a longer look at the impacts on your business and your community. Over the next few months this blog will dive more deeply into the above reasons. Keep your eyes on this blog, and if you have questions in the meantime, don’t wait a single minute to give us a call. We’d be happy to explain how PS Solutions addresses each of the above concerns – right from the USA.

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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.”


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.

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

Outsourcing While Onshoring: A Better Option for Software Solutions

Hiring programmers a world away has long been a desperate option for those looking to fill their need for tech talent. The argument was simply that American programmers weren’t available or affordable, and going off-shore promised lower costs and a tech team who worked while you slept.

Over time, American C-suites learned that there were hidden costs to the overseas solution. The time zone differential left small windows for communication and problem-solving. And English fluency, together with other cultural understandings, have grown from “nice-to-haves” to essential factors. These ‘soft’ attributes had a major impact on internal project management.

Such real-world lessons now collide with a growing concern of American jobs versus foreign jobs, and the real possibility that bad actors could comprise your offshore team and compromise your software integrity.

Indeed, when offshoring one loses certain control of the project which frequently translates into losing control of the money spent on that project; some companies spend millions without reaching a satisfactory solution. We’ve all heard those nightmares.

While acknowledging the cost savings companies cite for offshoring entire IT departments, what about the occasional, but necessary project updates, system and deliverable alignments that in-house software development teams inevitably face?

Because hiring a full-time developer — or team — requires an extended search, considerable overhead and the moral fiber (or lack thereof) to eliminate staff when the project is complete, companies look to what seems to be the easier and cost-sensitive solution of outsourcing via offshoring.

The alternative is onshore outsourcing. Assembling a stateside team to support and solve urgent software solutions invites creative collaboration, assures accessible control and eliminates the angst that comes with the “long-term commitment” of a new employee.

At PS Solutions, we thrive on providing creative onshore solutions for companies hitting roadblocks with their technology. We assign skilled developers to work onsite with in-house teams, or offsite but easily accessible. Either way, you meet the designers and developers working on your project; you can see the progress they are making and engage as frequently as you like. You’re in control.

Our capacity to scale, staff and site solutions according to client projects is what distinguishes PS Solutions. We match talent to task and temperament to team, assuring project needs and corporate culture are equally considered.

The result is ten years of satisfied clients who have avoided or at least augmented the offshore approach. For major corporations or mid-sized companies alike, onshoring is a welcome alternative to the overseas and often over budget offshore solution.


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