Analysis of the Benefits and Costs of CalMHSA's Investment in Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST)
May 18, 2015
Over 4,000 people die from suicide every year in California, and there are many more who attempt suicide. In fact, suicide is among the top five causes of death among 10- to 54-year-olds in the state. To save lives and reduce the adverse social and financial effects of suicide, the California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA) has fostered a statewide suicide prevention initiative, which is part of the prevention and early intervention programs funded by the Mental Health Services Act (Proposition 63) of 2004. This initiative implemented multiple programs and tools to prevent suicide.
In 2011, RAND researchers were asked to assist CalMHSA in evaluating the effectiveness of its prevention and early intervention programs. One such program, Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST), instructs clergy, first responders, teachers, and others holding jobs in which they are likely to come in contact with people at risk for suicide how to recognize risk factors, intervene, and link those at risk with appropriate resources. The ASIST workshops held from 2011 to 2013 prepared participants to conduct future ASIST workshops, thereby building suicide prevention capacity in communities throughout the state. The research team conducted a cost-benefit analysis to estimate the value of CalMHSA's continued investment in this program.
The study found that Californians stand to benefit from continued investment in the ASIST program in multiple ways:
This analysis of costs and benefits was designed to be comprehensible and informative, rather than exhaustive. Quantifying the relationship between CalMHSA's investment in ASIST and California's gain in labor productivity, tax revenues, and averted medical costs does not consider nonmonetary benefits of suicide prevention (e.g., reduced suffering) but can help California policymakers put their investments into perspective.
The California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA) is an organization of county governments working to improve mental health outcomes for individuals, families, and communities. Prevention and Early Intervention programs implemented by CalMHSA are funded by counties through the voter-approved Mental Health Services Act (Prop. 63). Prop. 63 provides the funding and framework needed to expand mental health services to previously underserved populations and all of California's diverse communities.