Today, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs announced the 10 winners of Mission Daybreak, a $20 million grand challenge to reduce Veteran suicides.
“Our Veterans need and deserve suicide prevention solutions that meet them where they are, rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach, and that’s exactly what Mission Daybreak has delivered. By drawing on a range of focus areas and life experiences, the Mission Daybreak winners have developed innovations that will save Veterans lives – and there’s nothing more important than that.”Shereef Elnahal, M.D.
VA Under Secretary for Health
Preventing Veteran suicide is VA’s top clinical priority and a top priority of the Biden-Harris Administration. In September, VA released the 2022 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report, which showed that Veteran suicides decreased in 2020 for the second year in a row, and that fewer Veterans died by suicide in 2020 than in any year since 2006. Mission Daybreak is part of VA’s 10-year strategy to end Veteran suicide through a comprehensive, public health approach, and is the largest cash federal incentive prize since the establishment of the Prize Authority.
Meet the winners
VA launched the multiphase challenge in May 2022, receiving more than 1,300 concept submissions in Phase 1 from Veterans, VSOs, community-based organizations, health tech companies, startups, and universities. The multidisciplinary judging panel — representing a diversity of perspectives, from Veterans and clinicians to social workers and technical experts — evaluated submissions from the 30 finalists in Phase 2. The panel recommended the 10 winners based on the official evaluation criteria.
The two first-place winners each received $3 million:
- Stop Soldier Suicide’s Black Box Project is a technology solution that identifies and analyzes data from digital devices of Veterans who died by suicide to develop machine learning models that can identify never-before-known risk patterns. Paired with evidence-based, suicide-specific intervention services, the Black Box Project will accelerate precision methodologies in suicide prevention for the Veteran community.
- Televeda’s Project Hózhó is the first mental health app and comprehensive operational plan for American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) populations. Televeda designed the tool in partnership with AIAN and Veteran communities for Navajo Veterans with plans to adapt and expand for use with other tribes. The solution incorporates traditional healing practices like storytelling and talking-circle interventions to reduce Veteran suicide and improve access to VA resources.
The three second-place winners each received $1 million:
- ReflexAI is an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered tool that can help the Veterans Crisis Line train and maintain a team of responders that can meet the needs of every Veteran who reaches out. The tool utilizes a three-pronged approach of simulation, feedback, and quality assurance, which is nationally recognized as an innovative and responsible use of AI in crisis services.
- Sentinel is a mobile app designed to reduce Veteran suicide by encouraging safe storage of firearms. The application integrates smart firearm and medication locking devices with a Veteran-specific learning and community support network that facilitates strong connections with other Veterans, family, and friends.
- Battle Buddy is a virtual human-led mental health and wellness application that promotes resiliency among Veterans at risk for suicide. The application’s interactive, conversational AI utilizes content from VA’s Suicide Safety Planning program during brief daily check-ins with Veterans. The mobile application will also connect with wearable sensors to leverage sleep, exercise, and other health signals. Battle Buddy is a partnership between the USC Institute for Creative Technologies and the SoldierStrong Foundation.
The five third-place winners each received $500,000:
- Even Health’s Cabana® is a virtual reality-based group support platform for Veterans who have survived a suicide attempt. The solution adapts an established support group model shown to reduce suicide and associated factors as well as increase resilience and a sense of belonging.
- NeuroFlow is a two-sided technology platform that offers Veterans tailored resources and digital care 24/7 while measuring their evolving behavioral health needs to inform care teams of potential crises before they happen. Providing virtual and in-person support for Veterans who would typically fall through the cracks, NeuroFlow assesses and triages Veterans and caregivers to get them to the right level of behavioral health care and community services based on their available benefits, geography, and clinical presentation.
- Overwatch Project is a peer-based intervention program that empowers Veterans to intervene with at-risk buddies, offering to temporarily hold onto their guns or take protective storage measures before it is too late. This comprehensive program includes training, community engagement, and communications initiatives crafted in a direct, authentic Veteran voice. The Overwatch Project, an initiative of the 501(c)(3) nonprofit FORGE, aims to transform the conversation about firearms and suicide prevention through an approach modeled after the “Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Drunk” campaign.
- OxfordVR’s gameChange, a digital therapeutic with the Food and Drug Administration’s Breakthrough Device designation, treats severe social isolation common to PTSD, psychosis, and severe depression, and a precursor to suicidal thoughts and behavior. Through virtual reality gameChange offers an immersive and scalable opportunity to treat Veterans where they are before a crisis moment.
- Team Guidehouse’s data platform integrates social determinants of health and social media data into the health record and an external dashboard to identify Veterans at risk in real time and provide actionable insights for suicide prevention. Team Guidehouse is a partnership between Red Hat and Philip Held, Ph.D., Rush University Medical Center.
Following Mission Daybreak, VA may engage with select solutions through contracts, Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs), or other partnership vehicles.