Due to the massive challenges presented by the current opioid crisis, SBIRT programs have become a bigger part of the public conversation. These programs are not a specific type of treatment, but are, instead, a type of healthcare policy approach focused on reducing substance use issues in a community. Below we’ll lay out some questions we’re often asked about SBIRT.
What Are SBIRT Programs?
SBIRT programs are an early intervention option for individuals with substance use disorder (SUD) or problematic patterns of substance misuse. “SBIRT” refers to the three major components of these programs: Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment.
Under this framework, clinics, hospitals, and health centers may proactively check for potential SUDs as part of standard questions for individuals seeking to be treated for other health conditions. This can help the healthcare system address drug and alcohol use problems before they become too difficult to address.
The SBIRT framework emphasizes intervention for drug or alcohol problems before they become more difficult and expensive to treat. SBIRT is not necessarily intended for people with advanced SUD or serious co-occurring mental health issues but it may be used concurrently with other appropriate treatment approaches.
What Are The Components of SBIRT?
SBIRT can be implemented in different ways, depending on the specific needs of a healthcare provider. Regardless of the implementation, SBIRT programs have these three components:
- Screening. Clinicians may employ different available screening tests to determine if the patient has a potential SUD. If they score above the threshold for the test, further diagnostics may be performed by a psychiatrist or other qualified mental health professional.
- Brief Intervention. In this phase, clinicians will use any of a number of different immediately available medical interventions to reduce further harm.
- Referral to Treatment. This is the phase where the attending physician recommends therapy and/or specialized care for SUD or unhealthy substance use.
Who Is SBIRT For?
SBIRT is meant to be used by healthcare providers, particularly in primary care settings. The approach excels in community healthcare settings and can be used to screen people who may not be actively seeking help for substance use disorder.
What Are The Benefits of SBIRT?
SBIRT has a number of proven benefits for both healthcare providers and individuals affected by SUD. Some of these benefits include the following:
- Better treatment of early SUD.Substance use issues tend to be far easier to treat when they are detected and addressed early on. However, people with emergent mental health issues like substance use disorder may not necessarily be aware that they have a problem until more obvious signs manifest, at which point treatment often becomes more involved and complex. The SBIRT framework allows healthcare systems to more easily detect and treat SUD and other related issues early on.
- Reduced total lifetime healthcare costs.Treating moderate to severe SUD can be a complex and very expensive undertaking, which can be further complicated by an affected person’s unique financial and personal situation. Lower-income individuals with severe SUD who cannot afford to take time off work may face years of challenges balancing treatment and employment. The early screening allowed by the SBIRT framework can help reduce the possibility of these costly extended recovery scenarios from occurring.
- Reduced cost to the community.SUD does not only have costs to the individual patient and their families, the community is invariably affected as well. The loss of productivity, additional public healthcare costs, and the potential for affected individuals to turn to criminal activity are more probable the more serious an SUD becomes. SBIRT can ultimately bring down these costs by allowing more affected individuals to be screened and treated before their condition becomes more serious.
- Harm reduction. People with moderate to severe SUD are at significantly greater risk of meeting an accident or from suffering from physical ailments related to their substance misuse. The early intervention allowed by SBIRT can ultimately prevent affected individuals and those around them from coming to further physical harm.
- More efficient use of resources. Even where resources are readily available, the specialized treatment of moderate and severe SUD can be a long and expensive process. Given the current state where there is a shortage of mental health professionals, these cases can tie up resources that may otherwise be used to treat others. Where it is implemented effectively, SBIRT can allow smaller teams of mental health professionals to address the needs of more people.
Where Can I Find SBIRT Programs?
If you’re in the North Texas region, you can call Dallas Drug Treatment Centers at +1(214) 935-2287 to find SBIRT programs in and around the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Our team will be able to recommend different programs and alternatives, depending on your specific situation.
- SAMSHA. (2011). Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) in Behavioral Healthcare.