by Taylor Brinkley, Program Manager of the SBIRT Program
Earlier this year, CHCACT launched a new program called the Connecticut Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment Program – called SBIRT for short. This program is a partnership between the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, the University of Connecticut Health Center, Community Health Center Association of Connecticut, and nine community health centers. In early 2012, CHCACT hired Health Educators – Bachelor’s level professionals with experience in community health, substance abuse, social work or other related fields – to work in partnering community health centers.
Just a few of the SBIRT Health Educators in our program.
SBIRT Health Educators see patients who are coming to health centers for regular care such as sick visits or physicals. They screen patients using a standardized set of questions related to the use of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs. The purpose of asking these questions is to identify patients who may be at-risk for substance misuse or abuse. Once screened, patients are offered varying levels of intervention based on their level of risk. For example, if a male patient comes in to see his provider for a physical, he will likely be screened by a Health Educator. If the patient uses alcohol above recommended limits, he may score at moderate risk for developing health or other problems related to his use of alcohol. The Health Educator will share with him important feedback such as his risk level, health risks associated with his use of alcohol, and advice for cutting down on his alcohol use. This interaction is key to educating patients and helping them lower their risk levels, when possible. Patients who score at very high risk may be provided with a referral to the appropriate level of treatment.
The focus of this program is to implement “universal” screenings in health centers – or to screen as many patients as possible who are 18 and older. In order to make this happen, Health Educators need to be integrated into the health center’s processes, procedures and work flows. Health Educators work closely with nurses, medical assistants and providers, attend provider/staff meetings, and are often considered a part of the health center’s “care-team.” This is important because Health Educators are able to share the information they glean from the screening with the patient’s provider. For example, if after receiving education from the Health Educator a patient is interested in quitting smoking, the Health Educator is able to inform the patient’s provider so he/she can follow-up with the patient for tobacco cessation counseling or perhaps prescription Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT), if needed. Hopefully, SBIRT will help further the linkage between primary care and behavioral health care services in community health centers.
Since February 2012, Health Educators have screened 2,760 people. Of this, approximately 82% have screened “negative” or at very low risk, 15% have received a Brief Intervention (feedback, advice), and 3% have been referred to treatment. The goal for this 5-year program is to complete 42,000 screenings so we have our work cut out for us! As SBIRT screenings become more integrated into the regular practices of the health centers, we hope to screen all adult health center patients at least once per year.
To learn more about the SBIRT program or for help finding services in your community, please contact Taylor Brinkley at firstname.lastname@example.org.