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Partnership building for scale-up in the Veteran Sponsorship Initiative: Strategies for harnessing collaboration to accelerate impact in suicide prevention.

Finley EP, Frankfurt SB, Kamdar N, Goodrich DE, Ganss E, Chen CJ, Eickhoff C, Krauss A, Connelly B, Seim RW, Goodman M, Geraci J. Partnership building for scale-up in the Veteran Sponsorship Initiative: Strategies for harnessing collaboration to accelerate impact in suicide prevention. Health services research. 2024 Apr 30.

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OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the implementation and trust-building strategies associated with successful partnership formation in scale-up of the Veteran Sponsorship Initiative (VSI), an evidence-based suicide prevention intervention enhancing connection to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and other resources during the military-to-civilian transition period. DATA SOURCES AND STUDY SETTING: Scaling VSI nationally required establishing partnerships across VA, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), and diverse public and private Veteran-serving organizations. We assessed partnerships formalized with a signed memorandum during pre- and early implementation periods (October 2020-October 2022). To capture implementation activities, we conducted 39 periodic reflections with implementation team members over the same period. STUDY DESIGN: We conducted a qualitative case study evaluating the number of formalized VSI partnerships alongside directed qualitative content analysis of periodic reflections data using Atlas.ti 22.0. DATA COLLECTION/EXTRACTION METHODS: We first independently coded reflections for implementation strategies, following the Expert Recommendations for Implementing Change (ERIC) taxonomy, and for trust-building strategies, following the Theoretical Model for Trusting Relationships and Implementation; a second round of inductive coding explored emergent themes associated with partnership formation. PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: During this period, VSI established 12 active partnerships with public and non-profit agencies. The VSI team reported using 35 ERIC implementation strategies, including building a coalition and developing educational and procedural documents, and trust-building strategies including demonstrating competence and credibility, frequent interactions, and responsiveness. Cultural competence in navigating DoD and VA and accepting and persisting through conflict also appeared to support scale-up. CONCLUSIONS: VSI's partnership-formation efforts leveraged a variety of implementation strategies, particularly around strengthening stakeholder interrelationships and refining procedures for coordination and communication. VSI implementation activities were further characterized by an intentional focus on trust-building over time. VSI's rapid scale-up highlights the value of partnership formation for achieving coordinated interventions to address complex problems.

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