The University of Pittsburgh’s Program Evaluation and Research Unit (PERU) has been working in partnership with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) since 2015. This partnership combines VA resources and a deep knowledge of Veterans’ issues with PERU’s quality improvement expertise toward the optimization and expansion of Veterans Health Administration (VHA) care. The projects conducted under this partnership are described in brief below.

PERU supported Veteran care access by conducting organizational health assessments at VHA facilities across the country to identify opportunities for improvement. Results from these evaluations informed the VHA’s MyVA Access initiative. Ultimately, improved organizational health was shown to align with improved Veteran access.

PERU is also working with VA to prevent suicides among Veterans. PERU previously collaborated with VA on the Together With Veterans initiative by developing an online and print toolkit for rural, grassroots suicide prevention. Currently, PERU supports VA’s piloting of a public health approach to prevent suicide by providing trainings, materials, and insight to ten Outreach and Education Specialists in Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) 23. Lastly, a new effort is launching between PERU and VA to optimize and expand the Veterans Crisis Line (VCL) by integrating the latest in evidence-based suicide prevention practices.

Current Veterans Affairs (VA) projects

Suicide Prevention Technical Assistance Center (SPTAC)

"Ensure the health, safety, and well-being of Veterans where they live, work, and thrive within VISN 23. "

Since 2018, the Suicide Prevention Technical Assistance Center (SPTAC) has lead a public health approach to suicide prevention, piloted in partnership with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Ten Outreach and Education Specialists (OES) employed by VA are increasing community involvement in suicide prevention by leveraging the reach and impact of local stakeholders toward evidence-based initiatives. Technical Assistance (TA) providers from the University of Pittsburgh’s Program Evaluation and Research Unit (PERU) support the OESs in these efforts by providing trainings, materials, and insight related to assessment, capacity-building, planning, implementation, evaluation, and sustainability. Suicide Prevention TAC Logo

VCL: #BeyondtheCall

#BeyondtheCall is a one-year task order which aims to implement three, evidence-based initiatives within the Veterans Crisis Line (VCL) to provide persons engaging with the VCL additional services while on the call (call, text, and chat) and additional on-going services after the call has ended. This is a partnership with the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention (OMHSP), Veterans Crisis Line’s (VCL) National Care Coordination and Field Operations (NCCFO).

Previous Veterans Affairs (VA) projects

Funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs, PERU collaborated with the Veterans Engineering Resource Center in Pittsburgh to develop a mobile application that will help patients monitor their health and reduce outpatient return visits.
Funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), this study analyzed the impact of the MyVA Access program on Veteran access to care across the entire Veterans Health Administration (VHA) healthcare system. The study also examined the effect of organizational health factors on patient access outcomes and made recommendations for how the VHA can best report patient access data internally and externally.
Funded by the VA, this project utilized the Systems Transformation Framework to evaluate the VA’s capacity to implement access improvement initiatives in a cohesive program. A critical component of the Access to Care Program (now MyVA Access) was a systematic focus on quality improvement and safety coupled with the development of improved capacity through organizational assessment.