Press release: White Mountain Community Health Center to implement SBIRT substance abuse screening
SBIRT (screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment), an evidence-based screening process, will initiate dialogues between patients and provides about substance use risks.
White Mountain Community Health Center has received grants from the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation (NHCF) and the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to implement an SBIRT program. SBIRT stands for screening, brief intervention and referral to treatment, and is an evidence-based universal screening and early intervention for substance abuse that is a new best practice for health care organizations.
Once a year, patients aged 12 and older will be asked to answer a brief screening questionnaire about substance use. Health care providers will discuss the screening results with patients, and will either encourage the continuation of healthy lifestyle choices, or will help patients identify risky behaviors that may be negatively impacting their health, and that they would like to change. A small number of screenings may result in a referral for more extensive substance abuse treatment.
This approach ensures that all patients, teenaged through adult, are screened, and that more emerging substance abuse issues are addressed early. Without this brief intervention, many substance abuse issues do not receive medical attention until they have already caused serious damage to people's lives.
Director of Operations Julie Everett Hill explained, "SBIRT will help to initiate a meaningful dialogue between the patient and provider about substance use risks."
Studies have shown that using SBIRT makes a real difference in patients' lives. A 2009 study of over 450,000 patients in six states showed that patients of practices using SBIRT had a 68% reduction in illicit drug use and a 39% reduction in heavy alcohol use over a 6 month period, compared with practices not using the program. Those who received brief intervention or referral to treatment also reported fewer arrests, more stable housing situations, improved employment status, fewer emotional problems, and improved overall health.
Other studies show that implementing SBIRT can save money by reducing inpatient hospitalizations. In Washington State, the monthly cost for disabled Medicaid recipients who received a brief intervention or treatment was over $350/month less than for those who did not.
Through these grants, White Mountain Community Health Center will be developing and implementing an SBIRT program by the end of this year. The NHCF grant is focused on teenagers and young adults, while the DHHS grant is focused on screening adults. The NHCF grant, in addition to funding training and development, creates a structure for New Hampshire health centers to collaborate and learn from each other as they develop their programs.
White Mountain Community Health Center provides comprehensive, high-quality primary care services and health education on a sustainable basis to women, men and children in the Mount Washington Valley community regardless of ability to pay. For more information call 447-8900 or visit www.whitemountainhealth.org.