SBIRT in Mental Health Settings

Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment

What Is the SBIRT Study?

The reduction of harmful substance use and the engagement of individuals with substance use disorders in specialized care is a public health priority for the United States. A health promotion approach called “Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT)” has received considerable attention among researchers, clinicians, and policy makers as a promising strategy to address this issue. Good evidence exists that SBIRT approaches can reduce risky alcohol use among patients seen in medical settings, and some promising but limited evidence exists that SBIRT can reduce illicit drug use.

A particularly vulnerable population in need of effective intervention for substance use disorders consists of individuals who may have co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders. The implementation of SBIRT approaches in mental health treatment settings may therefore prove to be an important means of significantly expanding the delivery of empirically supported interventions to at-risk individuals. Yet to date there has been no randomized controlled trial to examine SBIRT in mental health settings.

The proposed study addresses this gap in the evidence base for SBIRT by examining its efficacy for patients in mental health treatment settings.

How Will the Study Be Conducted?

First, participants will be screened using a series of questions about any history of mental health symptoms and drug and/or alcohol use. Participants who are determined to be eligible for the study will then be randomly assigned (like the flip of a coin) to one of the following groups:

  • SBIRT Intervention Group:
    Participants in this group will be asked questions about their drug and alcohol use and have a brief conversation with a health educator. Those participants who are determined to be at high risk for substance abuse may be referred to a treatment program.

  • Health Education Group:
    Participants in this group will receive a health education session and will be given educational materials about alcohol and drugs, as well as a list of contact information for addiction treatment programs.

All participants will be contacted at 3, 6 and 12 months to complete a series of follow up interviews.