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SBIRT is in Your Future: UMKC Wins $934K Grant to Teach It

Know what SBIRT is? You will, soon enough. It will probably be part of your annual checkup in the near future.

SBIRT is Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment for alcohol and drug use. The University of Missouri-Kansas City won a $934,223 federal grant to develop SBIRT training into its curriculum for health professional students in its School of Nursing and Health Studies and School of Social Work.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, funder of the grant, wants to increase SBIRT throughout the healthcare system.

SBIRT is a brief standardized screening for risky or harmful alcohol and drug use, and a 5- to 15-minute discussion to help patients with risky substance use habits to reduce their use, or referral to treatment for patients who may have a substance use disorder. Risky alcohol use for healthy adult males is consuming more than 4 drinks in one day or more than 14 drinks per week, and for healthy adult females (or older adults), consuming more than 3 drinks in one day or more than 7 drinks per week, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Risky drug use is any use of illegal drugs or using prescription drugs other than how they were described. There are an estimated 68 million Americans who consume alcohol or drugs at harmful levels who don’t have a disorder, said Heather Gotham, principal investigator of the grant and associate research professor in the Collaborative for Excellence in Behavioral Health Research and Practice at the UMKC School of Nursing and Health Studies.

“SBIRT is 5 to 15 minutes of problem solving to decrease drinking or drug use,” Gotham said. “Most people don’t know that risky substance use, including alcohol use over the low-risk limits, can cause or exacerbate health and other problems. SBIRT has huge potential to affect the health of the population.”

Currently, primary-care physicians, given the little time they can spend with patients, don’t practice SBIRT often. So the goal is to have nurses, social workers and other health care professionals perform SBIRT during annual primary care checkups, emergency department or other specialty care medical visits, and mental or behavioral health care appointments.

UMKC student training begins in January, the spring semester of 2014. Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and Nursing Practice (NP) students and Master of Social Work students will use SBIRT in regional health centers in St. Joseph and Springfield as well as locally at partners including KC CARE Clinic and University of Kansas Hospital. The grant is for three years.

“This is an important leap forward in the education of nursing and social work health professionals at UMKC,” said Ann Cary, dean of the UMKC School of Nursing and Health Studies. “And it translates behavioral research into practice so that patients receive the care they need. The innovative aspect of this grant is that students will build on their training in the classroom and the simulation center to ultimately apply it in actual practice settings with patients.”

SBIRT decreases not only health care utilization but also societal costs. SBIRT has become required and/or part of mandatory outcomes reporting by the American College of Surgeons, the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities, the Joint Commission and the Veterans Health Administration. It is billable through commercial insurance, Medicare and in an increasing number of states through Medicaid.


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