Boise VAMC Employee Receives Secretary's Hands and Heart Award
Mary Pierce, LCSW, Boise VA’s Suicide Prevention Coordinator, was awarded the VA Secretary’s Hands and Heart Award. This special recognition went to Mary because she is passionate about her role, and she has gone above and beyond her role to provide education to staff about suicide prevention. Mary works with many veterans who have contemplated or attempted suicide. She has been able to make a difference in many of their lives because of her compassion and strong clinical skills. We have received many letters from veterans telling us about the care that Mary has provided them, and the impact it made on their lives.
In addition to meeting with veterans, Mary has consistently offered to work with family members of the veterans she sees, to include them in the treatment process as appropriate. In order to ensure staff at the Boise VA are educated about suicide prevention, she has made efforts above and beyond what is required of her. Mary meets with all veterans in our inpatient psychiatric unit who have expressed thoughts of suicide. She began meeting with staff on this unit daily in order to help ensure that veterans are transitioned appropriately to outpatient care upon discharge. If for some reason there is an unexpected delay in getting a patient scheduled promptly, Mary works with Outpatient Mental Health and sees the patient herself, until the transition can be made.
If a provider who sees a high-risk patient is ill or on vacation, Mary has taken it upon herself to see these patients until the provider returns, to ensure that there is no lapse in treatment. With an emphasis on suicide prevention, Mary spearheaded process change efforts here at the Boise VA, aimed at assuring that suicide risk assessments are completed on all veterans who report preliminary symptoms of depression and/or PTSD. Her proactive approach and skill with incorporating both the clinical and process aspects of health care have resulted in improved early identification of veterans at risk for suicide and improved access to care for these veterans.
Mary was elected as a board member for SPAN Idaho (Suicide Prevention Action Network) in order to be a leader in suicide prevention in the community. She was asked by the Governor’s Council for Suicide Prevention to participate in the Idaho State Suicide Prevention Plan, and has now been nominated and selected to be a member of the Governor’s Council. She also serves as the chair of the Social Work Professional Standards Board, as well as the co-chair of the Mental Health Environment of
Mary continues to provide education to our community partners about suicide prevention and treatment programs that are available at the VA. We have received many compliments from those outside providers about how helpful Mary has been, not only in providing them with information, but also with assisting them with difficult cases involving veterans.
Mary is always available for consultation regarding patient care issues and assisting with policy changes and development related to suicide prevention. She has made an impact on the lives of many veterans she has worked with, as well as the staff here at the Boise VA. She has always had a positive attitude and a willingness to help in any way she can. It is for these reasons that we wanted to nominate, and Mary Pierce was selected for the Hands and Heart Award.