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The new Penn Innovation in Suicide Prevention Implementation Research Center will focus on reducing disparities in suicide prevention measures. Credit: Matthew Schwartz

The National Institutes of Health awarded Penn Medicine researchers a $14 million grant to develop a research center focused on reducing disparities in suicide prevention measures.

The initiative will be implemented over the next five years and will be called the Penn Innovation in Suicide Prevention Implementation Research (INSPIRE) Center, Penn Medicine News reported. It will be led by Maria Oquendo, chair of Psychiatry at Penn Medicine, and Gregory Brown, associate professor of Clinical Psychology in Psychiatry at Penn and director of the Penn Center for Prevention of Suicide. 

Overall suicide rates dropped for the first time in 20 years between 2018 and 2019, but this was due solely to a decrease among whites, according to an April study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Disparities in suicide rates persist across race, sexuality, and gender, according to the Centers for Disease Control. 

The initiative will focus on developing innovative suicide prevention interventions, as well as how these initiatives can be implemented effectively on a broad scale, Oquendo told Penn Medicine News. One aspect of this is adapting suicide prevention to different practice settings, including utilizing telehealth with follow-ups in the emergency department. 

The grant will also fund the establishment of the Suicide Prevention Scholars Program, which will bring together researchers new to suicide prevention and those who are underrepresented in research.

Penn Medicine previously received a grant in 2016 to fund the creation of a center for mental health research, focused on integrating mental health service into primary care.