The Need

Mental health and substance use disorders are closely connected and patients show better outcomes when they are treated concurrently.

Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) is an evidence-based approach to addressing substance use in any setting. Research suggests that people who work in the mental health field have an aptitude (and proclivity) for performing brief interventions as part of SBIRT.

The majority of Masters of Social Work programs do not require even one course about substance use and addiction, nor do they provide training about SBIRT.

The Solution

Beginning in 2015, IRETA has collaborated with the University of Maryland, School of Social Work in an effort to advance the competency of MSW students to effectively utilize SBIRT and bring SBIRT to new settings and populations where social workers practice.

IRETA provided technical support in the development of a two-day standalone curriculum for social work students that included in-person instruction with SAMHSA developed SBIRT modules adapted for social work, role-playing with standardized patients, and video demonstrations tailored to the field of social work.

IRETA took the lead in transforming the 15-hour standalone course into a 6-hour hybrid that was infused in an introductory course for social work students. The team at IRETA modified material extensively, developing online quizzes, creating content, and maintaining the online training materials.

Following development of the hybrid course, IRETA developed a 1-hour “Introduction to SBIRT for Field Instructors” (preceptors) designed to be administered online.

The Results

83 MSW students completed the two-day standalone SBIRT training, and more than 350 have taken the infusion course.

Pre- and post-tests indicate that the students acquired SBIRT knowledge and confidence that was sustained six months after receiving training.

In videotaped simulations, the students displayed excellent fidelity to the SBIRT model.

Pre- and post-tests also indicate that the students increased their SBIRT behaviors in their field placements.


In the time following implementation, MSW students a the University of Maryland, Baltimore, continue to receive SBIRT training from the in-class and online sources.

IRETA and UMB collaborated additionally on a project to revamp the Peer Recovery Support Specialist training for the state Maryland.

Find out more about the University of Maryland’s SBIRT curriculum on their website.

Read about the evaluation of this SBIRT training in the Journal of Social Work Practice in the Addictions.