At the end of September, IRETA received notification of a five-year award to serve as a National Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) Focus Center, a N-SBIRT ATTC.  The N-SBIRT ATTC builds on IRETA’s decade-long work in this area on a variety of local, regional and national projects.  Below, we review our recently-awarded SBIRT grants (a total of four), which stand as evidence of the undeniable momentum behind this simple, versatile risk reduction and prevention strategy.

IRETA receives N-SBIRT ATTC grant from SAMHSA

We are very pleased to announce that  IRETA has been awarded a five-year national ATTC-SBIRT grant from SAMHSA.

As the new National SBIRT ATTC, IRETA will become a SBIRT National Focus Center. This entails ensuring the coordination of multiple national SBIRT initiatives and producing a SBIRT suite of services to advance the adoption of SBIRT practices within systems.  As in the past, our work will have a strong basis in the latest implementation science using the ATTC Network’s technology transfer model.

IRETA’s partner on the N-SBIRT ATTC is NORC at the University of Chicago, which currently oversees two SBIRT implementation projects, the Hospital Initiative and the BIG Initiative.  The two initiatives illustrate SBIRT’s wide ranging application, from employee assistance programs to hospital settings.

Especially in the wake of the Supreme Court’s confirmation of the constitutionality of healthcare reform, SBIRT is a timely public health model for SAMHSA to advance.  It is an evidence-based practice that promotes integration between primary and specialty care and reduces healthcare spending by identifying harmful substance use before it escalates and causes illness or injury.

“Addressing the alcohol and drug treatment needs of people hospitalized for injuries and medical illnesses is reaching the same public health priority as treatment of heart
attacks, asthma, surgical infections and immunizations,” according to Dr. Eric Goplerud, who directs NORC’s Substance Abuse, Mental Health, and Criminal Justice Studies department.  Read IRETA’s quick snapshot of a 2009 study on SBIRT

The addiction treatment workforce has a vital role in the SBIRT model.  It can be used to extend services in a variety of settings. An addiction workforce trained to use the SBIRT model will be prepared for jobs in non-traditional settings like primary care centers and hospital emergency departments.  As the National SBIRT ATTC, IRETA will continue working to strengthen the addictions workforce with training and technical assistance, now with a particular focus on SBIRT.

Dr. Holly Hagle, National ATTC-SBIRT Director

N-SBIRT ATTC will address the following goals:

  • Serve as the national SBIRT expert and key resource;
  • Broaden implementation practices for SBIRT by creating an SBIRT suite of services;
  • Develop strategies to expand the workforce(s) that utilize SBIRT and work toward the consistent application of the SBIRT model to ensure fidelity and sustainability.

IRETA has led SBIRT research and training initiatives primarily in the northeast region over the last decade; our scope has now changed to include all of the United States.

“IRETA’s involvement in multiple state and national SBIRT projects since 2003 gives us the experience, knowledge and connections to lead the national ATTC-SBIRT focus area,” IRETA Executive Director Dr. Peter Luongo said.

HRSA grant for “SBIRT Training for Interprofessional Groups of Anesthesia Students”

IRETA also received notification of an award from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) for the InGAS-SBIRT training program. In cooperation with the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Nursing and School of Dental Medicine, this program provides SBIRT training for Interprofessional Groups of Anesthesia Students (InGAS) (which consists of student registered nurse anesthetists, dental anesthesiologists, and dental students) to improve their readiness to practice as they graduate and enter the workforce.

Project Director Ann Mitchell said that under the grant, IRETA and Pitt will train InGAS practicing in hospitals and community-based settings with underserved populations on addressing the needs of individuals who are using alcohol or other drugs in a risky manner.

It has been documented that 24 to 31 percent of all patients treated–and as many as 50 percent of severely injured trauma patients in emergency departments–test positive for alcohol use. Because InGAS may be called upon to intervene with these patients in both emergency and non-emergency situations, the SBIRT-InGAS project is an enormous opportunity to impact the healthcare of underserved patients.

Furthermore, because substance abuse is one of the most serious occupational safety issue associated with the practice of anesthesiology, the project also has the potential to reduce health risks associated with alcohol and other drug use among practitioners in the field.

HRSA grant for Emergency Department Registered Nurses

In addition to SBIRT-InGAS, IRETA and the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing also have EDRN-SBIRT, a HRSA grant to teach emergency department registered nurses SBIRT.  Currently in its second year of funding, this program develops the knowledge and skills of emergency department nurses to improve access to care, increase quality of service, and help patients whose alcohol and other drug use may not warrant specialized professional care.

Training nurses in SBIRT to address substance use in patients is ideal, said EDRN-SBIRT Project Director Dr. Ann Mitchell of the Pitt School of Nursing,  because “generally, nurses spend the most time with patients and are consistently ranked as the most trusted professionals [in healthcare].”

HRSA grant for “Interprofessional Collaborative Practice Targeting Substance Use in Rural Populations” 

Finally, IRETA and the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Nursing and Graduate School of Public Health have received a grant to use SBIRT to target substance use in rural populations. The purpose of this project is to create a team-based Interprofessional Collaborative Practice (IPCP) intervention that leads to efficient, quality care.

“This is a very innovative project,” said Project Director, Dr. Kathryn Puskar, of the Pitt School of Nursing.  “It’s really focused on using a team to provide care in an efficient, integrated, coordinated manner and move away from healthcare silos.”

The IPCP is composed of three diverse professionals: nurses, public health workers, and behavioral health counselors.  Rural areas were targeted for SBIRT training because they often lack specialists and access to services.  One of the results of the project will be a product: an SBIRT tool that can be used effectively across disciplines.

The ICPC SBIRT grant began in September 2012 and lasts for three years.


Look forward to more information on SBIRT practices, training and implementation in our e-newsletter, our website, and via social media.  For specific inquiries, contact Dr. Holly Hagle, Director of ATTC-SBIRT at holly[at]ireta[dot]org.