Kennedy Krieger Institute Receives Circle of Honor Award For Program That Screens for Suicide Risk

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BALTIMORE, February 9, 2023—Kennedy Krieger Institute has been named a Circle of Honor winner as part of the 2023 Minogue Awards for Patient Safety Innovation, receiving recognition for a universal screening program that helps assess suicide risk among its patients, including those with neurodevelopmental disabilities.

The Maryland Patient Safety Center (MPSC) bestowed the award to the Institute, which was one of eight hospitals throughout Maryland recognized for their efforts to provide safety and quality solutions in healthcare.

Dr. Suzanne Rybczynski, Kennedy Krieger’s Associate Chief Medical Officer and Vice President of Quality, Patient Safety and Professional Affairs, submitted the winning entry, “Implementing Suicide Prevention Through Universal Suicide Risk Screening.”

In 2017, Kennedy Krieger clinicians instituted a four-question suicide risk screening for all patients ages 8 to 18 as part of every medical screening at the Institute’s outpatient clinics. The suicide risk screening questions were developed by the National Institute of Mental Health. If patients answered yes to any of the four questions, a physician, nurse practitioner, psychologist, or social worker performed a suicide safety assessment. An appropriate mental health plan was formulated for the patient based on the assessment.

“We have learned many things through this program. First is that we can screen people of all ages with neurodevelopmental disabilities for suicide risk, even those who were previously thought to be unable to have suicidal thought or feelings,” Dr. Rybczynski said. “The system we set up makes screening a routine thing, like checking blood pressure or temperatures. It makes discussing mental health issues routine and not something to hide.”

Clinicians also learned that children with neurodevelopmental disabilities have “about the same risk for suicidal thoughts and ideas as typically developing children,” Dr. Rybczynski said. “Unless we ask screening questions, we may never be aware of the emotional distress these kids might be going through.”

The takeaway of this project, she said, is clear for all clinicians—if you don’t ask, you can’t help.

This year, MPSC received over 60 submissions for the Minogue Award and the winners were selected by a panel of independent judges who are leaders in the Maryland healthcare community. Top award winners will present their projects at the 19th Annual Patient Safety Conference, “Health Equity and Patient Safety: Facing the Challenge, Making the Change,” on March 31. They also will be recognized at a special reception.

“It is quite an honor for this program to be singled out for recognition by Maryland’s healthcare leaders,” said Brad Schlaggar, MD, PhD, President and CEO of Kennedy Krieger. “It’s important for clinicians to include children and teens with neurodevelopmental disabilities as part of any suicide risk screening, and our team has shown how it can be done effectively.”


About Kennedy Krieger Institute 

Kennedy Krieger Institute, an internationally known, non-profit organization located in the greater Baltimore/Washington, D.C. region, transforms the lives of more than 27,000 individuals a year through inpatient and outpatient medical, behavioral health and wellness therapies, home and community services, school-based programs, training and education for professionals and advocacy. Kennedy Krieger provides a wide range of services for children, adolescents and adults with diseases, disorders or injuries that impact the nervous system, ranging from mild to severe. The Institute is home to a team of investigators who contribute to the understanding of how disorders develop, while at the same time pioneer new interventions and methods of early diagnosis, prevention and treatment. Visit for more information about Kennedy Krieger.

Jessica Gregg
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Carson Rehfield
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