SBIRT (Screening Brief Intervention & Referral to Treatment)
Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) is a comprehensive, integrated evidence-based public health approach and model for identifying substance misuse and delivers early intervention services for persons at risk of developing substance use disorders. SBIRT is an identified “best practice” by the Institute of Medicine since 2001 and is recommended by the US Preventive Health Services Task Force.
SBIRT is implemented universally to all patients or all students and schools. It provides an opportunity for health providers to take proactive measures for individuals engaged in risky use of substances – but who are not currently in need of nor seeking treatment. SBIRT utilizes a rapid and simple set of procedures to affect the public health burden of substance abuse. SBIRT provides the opportunity for individuals to connect with help or support in a safe environment and by a trained, caring provider. Without programs like SBIRT, many teens never directly discuss aspects of their own behavioral or mental health. The use of SBIRT provides opportunities for early intervention with at-risk populations before more severe consequences occur. Additionally, the use of SBIRT provides: • Quick assessment of the severity of one’s substance use/misuse; • Immediate filter of non-problem users; • Identification of those who would benefit from brief education and reinforcement of healthy behaviors; • Increase in one’s insight and awareness of substance use/misuse; motivates toward behavioral change • Identification of risk level and of those who would benefit from higher levels of care • Referral to specialty care for further assessment of those at high substance use risk
A policy to implement SBIRT in your school is an effective strategy to address this crisis. According to Pain in the Nation, SBIRT provides a systematic means of identifying and providing appropriate services to people who clearly need, but are not receiving, treatment. Massachusetts passed a law in 2016 requiring public schools to verbally screen middle and high school students for substance use disorders using a validated screening tool. The use of this tool enables school health teams to detect risk for substance-use related problems and deploy brief intervention strategies to address these concerns at an early stage.