The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has announced the winners of the agency’s $20 million Mission Daybreak challenge focused on preventing veteran suicide.

Ten winners were chosen by VA, with first-place honors worth $3 million, second-place winners getting $1 million, and third-place winners receiving $500,000.

Shereef Elnaha, the VA’s under secretary for health, emphasized the importance of the efforts of those organizations in working to help address mental health issues that veterans may face.

“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,” said Elnaha.

“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,” said Elnaha.

Among the first-place winners is Stop Soldier Suicide, whose project uses data from digital devices of Veterans who died by suicide to develop machine learning models that can identify never-before-known risk patterns, and pairs that data with suicide-specific intervention services.

“We’re incredibly honored to receive this landmark award, which builds on VA’s long history of advancing health innovation,” Stop Soldier Suicide CEO Chris Ford said. “Together, Stop Soldier Suicide, VA, and the other outstanding awardees will advance our nation’s efforts to dramatically reduce the Veteran suicide rate this decade.”

Televeda, also a first-place winner, created a mental health app and operational plan for American Indian and Alaska Native populations, with an initial focus on Navajo veterans. The solution incorporates traditional healing practices like storytelling and talking-circle interventions, the VA said.

Second-place winners include ReflexAI, Sentinel, and Battle Buddy which use modern smart phone technology and AI to help lower suicide rates among veterans.

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Jose Rascon
Jose Rascon
Jose Rascon is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.