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CHHS Faculty Presents Preliminary SBIRT Findings to Virginia Governor’s Advisory Commission on Opioids and Addiction

May 17, 2019   /   by Michelle Thompson

On May 17, CHHS faculty member and VA-SBIRT Project Manager, Dr. Patty Ferssizidis, presented preliminary results of the Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) initiative to Virginia Governor’s Advisory Commission on Opioids and Addiction.

Dr. Patty FerssizidisThe SBIRT initiative is funded by a five-year $8.3 million Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) grant awarded to the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS). SBIRT is an evidence-based model that promotes a public health approach to identifying those at risk of substance use and reaching the greatest number of people needing interventions at the time and place of optimal impact.  Under this grant, VA-SBIRT leads the integration of SBIRT into healthcare practices, preparing healthcare providers to identify and respond to substance and depression risk through routine screening and interventions during visits for annual exams, emergency care, and other health-related visits.

In the first two years of the five-year grant period, more than 50,000 Virginians have been screened across the Shenandoah Valley and Northern Virginia regions, with 6,000 (12%) individuals identified as being at mild, moderate, or severe substance risk. During this time, VA-SBIRT completed 2,966 interventions for alcohol and drug use and 2,520 for tobacco use. Preliminary results show that half of individuals who received an intervention for risky alcohol use were either in recommended drinking ranges (35%) or had significantly decreased their level of risk (15%) six months later. More than one-third of individuals who received an intervention for risky drug use were abstinent six months later.

SBIRT is recommended by many organizations including the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, American Academy of Pediatrics, SAMHSA, and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

“Brief interventions are highly effective in reducing risk of alcohol and drug misuse,” says Ferssizidis, “and preliminary findings from the first two years of the initiative show that training providers on the process of screening, intervention, and referral offers a relatively brief and focused approach to decreasing risk.” 

Under Ferssizidis’ leadership VA-SBIRT and CHHS will develop additional resources to support providers and students, including online training materials and videos.

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