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Healthcare worker writing patient substance use information for doctor review and medical record.

About SBIRT.

It is important to realize that there are people and programs out there willing to provide resources that can help those who feel they might be in need. At VitAL, we initiate a formal screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment (SBIRT) program that is executed across a wide range of primary care clinics and hospitals. Our programs serve residents with health disparities and limited access to resources. We also specialize in helping veterans and rural community residents who may have trouble accessing care by linking those in need to community partners.

With the help of The Alabama Department of Mental Health and The University of Alabama School of Social Work, we believe we can help build a better tomorrow.

What is SBIRT?

  • Screening:A universal screening is used to quickly assess the patient’s use (and severity) of alcohol and either prescription or illicit drugs. Many people consume either alcoholic beverages or any number of drugs regularly for a variety of different reasons. The goal of the screening is to assess the use and severity of tobacco; alcohol; illicit drugs; and prescription drug use and misuse.
  • Brief Intervention: Provides feedback about risky behaviors. It also focuses on education, increasing patient insight and awareness about risks related to unhealthy substance use, and enhances motivation toward behavioral change.
  • Referral to Treatment: Referrals to specialty care are written for patients with treatment needs greater than an intervention.

Why Do We Use SBIRT?

SBIRT is used to identify and intervene with individuals who currently have a substance use disorder and those who are considered to be at high risk.

The unhealthy use of substances, such as alcohol and illegal or prescription drugs, is a major preventable public health problem. The societal cost of such misuse is more than $600 billion annually, so SBIRT is generally a successful attempt to get people the help they need before use becomes a chronic problem. If the patient is already experiencing chronic addiction symptoms, then a specialized SBIRT plan can help get them back to living the life they deserve.

Primary care centers, hospitals, and other community settings provide excellent opportunities for early intervention with both at-risk substance users and those with substance-use disorders.

How Important Is SBIRT?

  • Unhealthy and unsafe alcohol and drug use are major public health problems that are preventable, resulting in more than 100,000 deaths each year.
  • Nearly 25 percent of the population uses drugs or alcohol in a way that will put them at risk at some point in their lives, whether that be in the immediate future or years down the line.
  • Effects of unhealthy and unsafe alcohol and drug use have far-reaching implications for the individual, family, workplace, community and the health care system.

Ultimately, the primary goal of SBIRT is to identify and effectively intervene with those who are at risk for psychosocial or healthcare problems related to their substance use.

  • A growing body of evidence about SBIRT’s effectiveness—including cost-effectiveness—has demonstrated its positive outcomes.
  • The research shows that SBIRT is an effective way to reduce drinking and substance misuse problems.
  • By intervening early, SBIRT can save lives and money and is consistent with overall support for patient wellness.
  • Late-stage intervention and substance misuse treatments are expensive, and by that point, the patient has often developed comorbid health conditions that could have been avoided with earlier treatment.