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June 2019

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Professor Dan Lubman, Dr Debbie Scott and Turning Point population health research manager Sharon Matthews.

Turning Point receives suicide monitoring project grant

Turning Point, Australia’s leading addiction treatment and research centre, is one of 20 organisations world-wide to benefit from the Google AI Impact Challenge.

The Google AI Impact Challenge provides USD$25 million in grants from Google.org, credit and consulting from Google Cloud and coaching by Google’s artificial intelligence (AI) experts.

The challenge was an open call to non-profits, social enterprises and research institutions world-wide to submit ideas to use AI to help address societal challenges.

Turning Point and its partners, Monash University and the Eastern Health Foundation, are the only Australian grant recipients.

It will receive AUS$1.2 million (USD$850,000) to develop a national suicide monitoring system with the potential to set international standards to informing suicide prevention efforts.

Turning Point director and Monash University Professor of addiction studies and services Dan Lubman will lead the project.

He travelled to San Francisco with colleagues, Dr Debbie Scott and Professor Wray Buntine, to launch it.

For five days, all 20 organisations from across the world that had successfully received grants joined Google AI experts, project managers and the start-up specialists from Google’s Launchpad Accelerator for a training program.

Each organisation paired with a Google expert for coaching sessions and accessed other Google resources and expert mentorship.

‘Suicide rates, unfortunately, are continuing to rise in Australia and around the world,’ Professor Lubman said.

‘This grant gives us the opportunity to undertake a project that has huge potential to make a positive impact and we are incredibly grateful for the generous commitment to supporting this work.’

The project will involve AI methodologies to streamline coding of national ambulance suicide-related attendance data.

The resulting data would play a central role in informing public health prevention, policy and intervention, as well as identifying emerging trends, hidden populations and geographical hotspots for targeted responses relating to suicide.

‘Eastern Health Foundation is very excited to work in partnership with Turning Point and Monash University on this three-year project and is delighted to assist in the coordination of various aspects of this ground-breaking project,’ said Eastern Health Foundation director Jason Smith.

Google.org president Jacquelline Fuller said more than 2,600 organisations applied to the Google AI Impact Challenge.

‘We are excited that Eastern Health was selected to receive funding and expertise from Google.

‘AI is at a nascent stage when it comes to the value it can have for the social impact sector and we look forward to seeing the outcomes of this work and considering where there is potential for use to do even more,’ Ms Fuller said.