Joint Commission updates suicide as sentinel event policy

The Joint Commission is expanding its definition of suicide as a sentinel event. 

According to a Dec. 13 news release from the organization, begining in 2024, a patient's death by suicide will be considered a sentinel event if the death occurs: 

  • While in a healthcare setting
  • Within seven days of discharge from inpatient services
  • Within seven days of discharge from emergency department  
  • While in or within seven days of discharge from these behavioral healthcare settings: 
    • Day treatment/partial hospitalization program/intensive outpatient program
    • Residential
    • Group home
    • Transitional supportive living

The current policy only considers death by suicide a sentinel event if the death occurs within 72 hours of being discharged from an around-the-clock care setting or emergency department. 

In the news release, the commission said data and evidence-based literature support extending the time frame and services a patient receives when considering a suicide as a sentinel event. The new criteria are designed to align with the highest risk-windows for death by suicide and highlight healthcare organizations' responsibility for ongoing assessment of patients, residents or individuals treatment progress. 

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