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The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is looking for innovative ways to address the issue of Veteran suicide. To that end, its Mission Daybreak grand challenge will award $20 million in support of cutting-edge suicide prevention solutions.

In 2022, Red Hat teamed with global consulting services provider Guidehouse and Philip Held, Ph.D. of Rush University Medical Center, to develop new data-driven means of identifying Veterans at risk for suicide. The combined group – known as Team Guidehouse – was named one of 30 Mission Daybreak finalists and proceeded to the final round of Phase 2 where they presented their solutions to key stakeholders, investors, and partners at a demo day on November 4th, 2022.

We’re thrilled to share that Team Guidehouse was named a winner in the Mission Daybreak challenge, Phase 2, and will move forward with developing the solution for the VA’s efforts to reduce Veteran suicides. 

Breaking the cycle of Veteran suicide

There’s an urgent need here: “Since 2010, more than 65,000 Veterans have died by suicide – more than the total number of deaths from combat during the Vietnam War and the operations in Iraq and Afghanistan combined,” the White House reports. In tapping private-sector innovation, Mission Daybreak seeks to advance the VA’s 10-year comprehensive strategy that aims to break the cycle.

“Suicide has no single cause, and no single strategy can end this complex problem,” according to the VA. “That’s why Mission Daybreak is fostering solutions across a broad spectrum of focus areas. A diversity of solutions will only be possible if a diversity of solvers — including Veterans, researchers, technologists, advocates, clinicians, health innovators, and service members — answer the call to collaborate and share their expertise.”

An open source approach

The proposed solution combines the VA’s suicide prevention risk model, REACH-VET, with Guidehouse’s (in)Sight Health Catalyst, which uses publicly available social media data to identify potentially imminent cases whereas Veterans need immediate suicide intervention support.

Leveraging this data, the model seeks to enable providers to more easily identify and help specific Veterans in need. The solution depends on the ability to use artificial intelligence and machine learning to sift through vast volumes of data. 

That’s where Red Hat comes in.

The industry’s leading enterprise Kubernetes platform, Red Hat OpenShift, lets users choose where to build, deploy, and run applications, and delivers a consistent experience in support of the most demanding workloads, including artificial intelligence and machine learning. It provides a scalable and extensible machine learning platform, giving Team Guidehouse an effective way to operationalize machine learning solutions in the effort to help prevent Veteran suicide. Utilizing Red Hat OpenShift Service on AWS (ROSA), Team Guidehouse is able to run the solution natively on Amazon Web Services (AWS), allowing them to increase operational efficiency and benefit from the joint support and operation of Red Hat and AWS. 

The system relies on Application Programming Interfaces, or APIs — a set of definitions and protocols for building and integrating application software — to allow for integration with electronic health records. By leveraging Red Hat OpenShift API Management, Team Guidehouse’s solution offers an API-first approach to building microservices applications and helps streamline integration into the existing systems. That ready access to medical histories will be key to help identify those at risk, in support of timely interventions.

To help accelerate and amplify machine learning capabilities, the solution also utilizes Red Hat OpenShift Data Science, a managed cloud service for data scientists and developers that provides a fully supported environment to rapidly develop, train and test machine learning models in the public cloud before deploying into production. 

Lastly, with the support of Red Hat OpenShift Streams for Apache Kafka, the Team Guidehouse solution also streamlines the developer experience by making it easier to create, discover, and connect to real-time data streams no matter where they are deployed.

Developing a suicide prevention solution on open source tools not only supports engagement with other partners – extending the solutions as new data sources and insights come to the fore – but also supports a future-ready solution that will be able to continue to adapt and address the challenges in the years to come.  

What happens next?

The Phase 2 winners, including Team Guidehouse, will continue working with the VA to put the prototype solution into production. 

Red Hat is honored to be part of this program with Team Guidehouse and proud of our collective success as winners in this innovative public health initiative. This effort highlights our ongoing commitment to helping Veterans’ needs and is an extension of work that Red Hat is already doing with the VA. Furthermore, it showcases the repeatability and scalability of open source-enabled solutions, and how they can speed deployment of AI/ML solutions such as Team Guidehouse’s, without requiring a complex IT infrastructure build-out.

We’re excited to continue working with Team Guidehouse on the Mission Daybreak challenge and help enable the VA to glean actionable insights, more quickly as they work to put and end to Veteran suicides. 


About the author

Brock Spradling is a Senior Director within Red Hat’s North America Public Sector, focused on the mission of our nation’s Federal civilian organizations. He works closely with all of the government’s civilian agencies, as well as the integrators and Red Hat partners that support these agencies. Over the past seven years at Red Hat, Brock worked closely within both the Federal Healthcare and Law Enforcement and Justice verticals to promote and define the use of enterprise open source solutions. Brock has a passion around developing solutions that exceed customer objectives, drive digital transformation, and delight end customers. He received his BS in Oceanography from the United States Naval Academy, served our country as a naval submarine officer, and received an MS in Information Systems at George Washington University.

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