June 3, 2015


Contact: Jessica Williams, Director of Communication and Health Promotion at the Institute for Research, Education and Training in Addictions (IRETA)
E: jessica@ireta.org
P: 412-258-8561


(Pittsburgh, PA) On June 9 and 10, the University of Pittsburgh and the Institute for Research, Education and Training in Addiction (IRETA) will host a national conference focused on training medical teams to recognize unhealthy drug and alcohol use. The conference, titled “Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) for Alcohol and Other Drug Use: An Interprofessional Conference,” will be held at Pitt’s world-renowned Peter M. Winter Institute for Simulation, Education and Research.

Federal data show that over 90% of people with drug and alcohol problems don’t receive help for them. Particularly because of the growth in opiate addiction and overdose over the last two decades, promoting the practice of Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) has become a national priority. However, to be effective, SBIRT often requires coordination and collaboration among multiple healthcare providers. That’s why this conference is specifically geared toward interprofessional teamwork. Featured keynote speaker Dr. Eduardo Salas is an international expert in simulation and team training; much of his work replicates decision-making scenarios to improve the process of making decisions for teams in high-stakes industries, including healthcare.

“People with drug and alcohol problems can enter the healthcare system at many places—ERs, primary care, mental health settings—and unless the substance use problem is addressed, oftentimes that patient’s health problems don’t improve,” explained Dr. Holly Hagle of IRETA, an independent nonprofit in Pittsburgh. “With the passage of the Affordable Care Act, healthcare providers are looking harder than ever at ways to reduce costly healthcare utilization and promote a patient’s wellness. Addressing unhealthy substance use is one way to do that.”

In attendance will be over 100 psychologists, social workers, nurses, nurse anesthesiologists, addiction counselors, physicians, and other health professionals. Presenters include a number of members of the University of Pittsburgh faculty, as well as SBIRT researchers and practitioners from across the country. The event will also showcase the value of the University of Pittsburgh’s top-rated standardized patient program, which allows future health professionals to interact with specially-trained actors who mimic the symptoms of real health conditions. Standardized patients are an essential part of the SBIRT educational programs currently underway for Pitt students studying dental anesthesiology, nurse anesthesiology, and dental hygiene.

“We are committed to teaching our students to recognize and address risky substance use and simulation of real patient interaction using standardized patients has been invaluable in that training process,” said Dr. John O’Donnell, chair of the Nurse Anesthesia program at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Nursing. “We’re looking forward to delving deeper into these topics at the conference and especially appreciate the opportunity to hear about simulation and team training from our keynote speaker, Dr. Salas.”

Dr. O’Donnell is the Project Coordinator of an SBIRT grant funded through the Health Resources and Service Administration (HRSA) for anesthesia students at the University of Pittsburgh. Two other conferences planners, Dr. Kathryn Puskar and Dr. Ann Mitchell, are Principal Investigators for a number of other SBIRT projects funded through HRSA, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing. The impetus for this conference stems from the positive results they are seeing in the interprofessional education of their students and health care professionals in these projects.

The conference is co-sponsored by the University of Pittsburgh Schools of Nursing, Social Work, Medicine, and Public Health, as well as the University of Maryland School of Social Work, the Pennsylvania/Mid-Atlantic AIDS Education Training Center, and the Institute for Research, Education and Training in Addictions.


The Institute for Research, Education and Training in Addictions (IRETA) is an independent nonprofit in Pittsburgh, PA. IRETA helps people respond effectively to substance use and related problems.

Information about the conference will be available in real-time on Twitter using the hashtag #SBIRTinPgh.