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The Columbia Protocol, also known as the Columbia-Suicide Severity Rating Scale (C-SSRS), supports suicide risk assessment through a series of simple, plain-language questions that anyone can ask. The answers help users identify whether someone is at risk for suicide, assess the severity and immediacy of that risk, and gauge the level of support that the person needs.

In 2018, the Blair County Department of Social Services approached PS Solutions with the idea of developing a mobile application centered around the Columbia Protocol. Since then, the app has been adopted by various organizations, including the Department of Homeland Security, the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, the Virginia Department of Corrections, and the American Legion. 

In 2019, Dr. Kelly Posner, creator of the Columbia Protocol and a Professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University, contacted us regarding the Department of Homeland Security’s interest in having their version of the Columbia Protocol App available on app stores. This version of the app would utilize the Columbia Protocol and include additional resources tailored for military personnel, facilitating access to government resources for individuals across all branches of the military.

Shortly after, the Virginia Department of Corrections expressed interest in having their own app, incorporating the Columbia Protocol along with resources specifically designed for internal use by the Department of Corrections.

As the app’s popularity increased, the entire State of Pennsylvania began utilizing the protocol while seeking to gather demographics on its users. They aimed to understand the distribution of users within the state, including details such as age, gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. Importantly, this data was only collected if voluntarily provided by users, enabling the generation of reports to better assess suicide risk across different demographics. This data also provides valuable insights for grant opportunities, directing funding towards groups in need of mental health resources and support.

A few years later, the American Legion approached Dr. Posner with the hopes of having their own application developed, tailored specifically for veterans. This app, named “Be The One-Columbia Protocol,” would utilize the Columbia Protocol and provide resources tailored to veterans or those assisting them. With user permission, the app could offer location-specific resources. Dr. Posner presented the concept to us, and our developers promptly began working on the mobile application. Dr. Posner and The American Legion are currently working diligently to extend the application’s presence across all fifty states. 

Since 2018, the growth and impact of this app have been incredible. We are so grateful to have had the opportunity to develop a tool with the potential to save lives. We can’t wait to watch its expansion across the United States. Each version of the app is available for free download in the Apple and Android app stores. 


Savannah Gillie is the Marketing and Community Engagement Specialist of PS Solutions, a custom software development and consulting firm with offices in Altoona, PA, Pittsburgh, PA, and Wilmington, NC. You can reach Savannah at sgillie@pssolutions.net 

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