VA awards millions to veteran suicide tech challenge winners

Veterans Affairs has announced the winners of the Mission Daybreak Grand Challenge, part of a 10-year strategy to end veteran suicide through a comprehensive, public health approach.


Preventing Veteran suicide is the VA’s top clinical priority, according to an announcement about the Mission Daybreak winners.

The challenge was launched last year and of more than 1,300 concepts submitted, 30 were selected to compete for $20 million in funding to develop their innovations.

Veterans, veteran service organizations, community-based organizations, health technology companies, startups and universities submitted concepts ranging from targeted virtual care programs to other promising suicide prevention technologies connecting veterans to healing and recovery, according to the VA.

The agency awarded first-place winners, Stop Soldier Suicide and Televeda, $3 million each.

The second-place winners – ReflexAI, Sentinel and Battle Buddy – will receive $1 million a piece.

Five third-place winners – Even Health, NeuroFlow, Overwatch Project, OxfordVR and Team Guidehouse – won $500,000 each.

Learn more about their award-winning suicide prevention technologies: 

Stop Soldier Suicide’s Black Box Project seeks to accelerate precision methodologies in suicide prevention by identifying and analyzing data from the digital devices of veterans who died by suicide in order to develop machine-learning models that can identify never-before-known risk patterns and pair them with evidence-based, suicide-specific intervention services.

Televeda’s Project Hózhó is the first mental health app for American Indian and Alaska Native populations. The app, and comprehensive operational plan, were designed in partnership with veteran communities for Navajo Veterans. Project Hózhó incorporates traditional healing practices – like storytelling and talking-circle interventions – and improved access to VA resources to reduce AIAN veteran suicide rates.

ReflexAI is an artificial intelligence-powered tool based on a three-pronged approach of simulation, feedback and quality assurance that can help the Veterans Crisis Line train and maintain a team of responders.

Sentinel is a safe storage of firearms mobile app that integrates smart firearm and medication-locking devices with a learning and community support network.

Battle Buddy, a partnership between the USC Institute for Creative Technologies and the SoldierStrong Foundation, is a virtual human-led mental health and wellness application that promotes resiliency among veterans at risk for suicide. It uses interactive, conversational AI and content from VA’s Suicide Safety Planning program for brief daily check-ins. The app will also connect with wearable sensors to leverage sleep, exercise and other health signals. 

Even Health’s Cabana is a virtual reality-based group support platform for veterans who have survived suicide attempts. It adapts an established support group model shown to reduce suicide incidence and increases resilience and sense of belonging.

NeuroFlow is a two-sided technology platform providing virtual and in-person support for veterans with tailored resources and digital care 24/7. It will measure their evolving behavioral health needs to inform care teams of potential crises before they happen. 

Overwatch Project is a peer-based intervention program that includes training, community engagement and communications initiatives crafted in an authentic veteran voice and tone. The goal is to empower veterans to intervene with at-risk buddies, offering to temporarily hold onto their guns or take protective storage measures. It is an initiative modeled after the “Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Drunk” campaign by the nonprofit FORGE.

OxfordVR’s gameChange, a digital therapeutic using virtual reality that has received Food and Drug Administration Breakthrough Device designation, treats severe social isolation common to PTSD, psychosis and severe depression. It’s an immersive and scalable opportunity to treat veterans where they are before a crisis moment.

Team Guidehouse has a data platform integrates social determinants of health and social media data into the health record and an external dashboard to identify veterans at risk, in real-time, and provides actionable insights for suicide prevention. Team Guidehouse is a partnership between Red Hat and Philip Held, Ph.D., Rush University Medical Center.


U.S. veterans have a suicide rate that has been double the rate of non-veterans in years past. 

Those in rural areas are more likely to die by suicide than those in urban areas. 

But studies show that technologies, like telehealth, can treat suicidal ideation anywhere veterans are.

During the pandemic, which isolated and reduced access to healthcare providers, the VA intensified its efforts to distribute video-enabled tablets. 

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Network Open found the tablets resulted in increased psychotherapy visits and fewer emergency department visits among veterans and reduced suicide behavior.

“These results reinforced a previous finding that tablets improved continuity of mental healthcare, and extended prior work by showing tablet-associated reductions in ED visits and suicide behavior,” said researchers.


“Our veterans need and deserve suicide prevention solutions that meet them where they are, rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach, and that’s exactly what Mission Daybreak has delivered,” said Dr. Shereef Elnahal, VA undersecretary for health, in the announcement.

“By drawing on a range of focus areas and life experiences, the Mission Daybreak winners have developed innovations that will save veterans’ lives – and there’s nothing more important than that.”

Andrea Fox is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Email: [email protected]

Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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